Let’s face it. No one enjoys discussing death or dying, much less planning a funeral for a loved one or even for themselves.
However uncomfortable the subject may be, if you don’t plan in advance, it could cost you both financially and emotionally.
Shopping around for the most suitable and affordable funeral goods and services is an important step in the right direction. However, with so many funeral homes and services to choose from, it can be a daunting process.
The California Department of Consumer Affairs’ Cemetery and Funeral Bureau, which licenses, regulates, and investigates complaints against California funeral establishments and nearly 200 fraternal and private cemeteries in the State, offers a booklet titled, “Consumer Guide to Funeral and Cemetery Purchases,” which contains information that will help consumers make informed decisions throughout the process. It provides extensive information on the legal requirements involving disposition arrangements such as home death care, retail casket sellers, embalming and cremation, as well as coroner fees and a host of other important and useful information.
The “Consumer Guide to Funeral and Cemetery Purchases” is available online in both English and Spanish at the Cemetery and Funeral Bureau’s Web site, www.cfb.ca.gov.
Additional help for consumers may also be on the way. Two groups, the Funeral Consumers Alliance and the Consumer Federation of America, recently filed a petition with the FTC seeking requirements for funeral homes to fully disclose their prices for burial products and services online. Some establishments currently list pricing for services online; others do not.
If the requirements are approved, the change would update a 1984 FTC rule that currently requires price disclosure, but only in person or over the phone. Many consumer advocates maintain the new online guidelines—if implemented—would make planning for funerals much easier and convenient for consumers who could access funeral information with the click of a mouse and in the comfort of their homes.
Remember, once you’ve decided on a funeral home and arrangements have been made, you’re entitled by law to get an itemized statement with the final cost so there are no surprises and you know exactly what you’re paying for.
Most importantly, the Cemetery and Funeral Bureau recommends consumers make sure that the funeral establishment, funeral director, crematory, crematory manager, or cemetery they choose are licensed by the State and in good standing. You can verify the license online on the Bureau’s website at http://www.cfb.ca.gov/consumer/lookup.shtml
(NOTE: The State does not license cemeteries operated by religious organizations; cities, counties, or cemetery districts; the military; Native American tribal organizations; or other groups. If you don’t know who regulates the cemetery you’re interested in, ask the cemetery manager.)
If you need help with a cemetery or funeral issue, visit the Bureau’s Web site at www.cfb.ca.gov or call the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Consumer Information Center at (800) 952-5210 or the Bureau directly at (916) 574-7870.