Death, Be Not a Rip-Off
When a friend or relative dies, you may be asked to make arrangements. See if you know enough to avoid getting suckered on funeral expenses.
(MONEY Magazine) – 1) Which is more expensive?
A Burial B Cremation
ANSWER: A. Burial, by a long shot. You can spend anything from a frugal $800 to $5,000 or more, according to the Funeral Consumers Alliance. Cremation, by contrast, can cost as little as $200. Today nearly a third of Americans choose cremation, up from 4% in the early 1960s.
2) In The Big Lebowski, Walter Sobchak and The Dude refuse to pay a mortuary's fees for even its "most modestly priced" urn and instead transport Donnie's ashes to their final resting place in a coffee can. Putting aside the question of taste, is that legal?
A Yes B No
ANSWER: A. Yes. You can use any container you wish. You don't have to purchase an urn or a casket from the funeral home. Caskets are generally the most expensive component of a funeral service, with some models marked up 600% or more, which is why the typical price of a casket runs upwards of $2,000. You can reduce the cost considerably by buying directly from suppliers or by ordering a casket from Costco (yes, really), which offers several models for less than $1,000, shipping included. The funeral home must use the container you provide and cannot charge an extra fee for doing so. If you've chosen cremation, you are entitled to use a low-cost "alternative container" instead of a casket. And you can bring your own urn—or empty Folgers can if you wish.
3) Which of the following are you required by law to pay for if you want your loved one buried?
A Grave liners B "Sealer" caskets designed to reduce water see page C Embalming
ANSWER: TRICK QUESTION. The answer is none of the above. Grave liners (also called vaults) and sealer caskets are unnecessary add-ons that serve mainly to pad the profits of the funeral home (though some cemeteries require you to buy a grave liner). Embalming is optional in most cases, unless your loved one died of a communicable disease.
4) The Funeral Rule gives you the right to:
A See casket prices before viewing the caskets B Buy only the funeral arrangements you want, instead of a package deal C Get a written explanation of which funeral services or products are required by law and which are not D All of the above
ANSWER: D. The Funeral Rule, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, is less a rule than a consumer bill of rights designed to protect the little guy from funeral-home rip-offs. Go to ftc.gov and search for "paying final respects" for details on the rule's other protections.
5) If you purchase a "prepaid" funeral and then move to another city, the funeral home must transfer your money to a provider in your new area.
A True B False
ANSWER: B. It makes good sense to plan a funeral in advance so that you aren't pressured into a pricey extravaganza when you're feeling most vulnerable. But unless the contract specifies, there are no guarantees that you'll get your money back if you move or change your mind, or if the funeral home goes out of business. You're better off setting aside the money in a simple trust that's under your own control, rather than handing the cash over to a funeral home.
6) How much will it cost to have your remains rocketed into the stratosphere by a company called Columbiad Launch Services?
A $5,500 B $8,700 C $12,500
ANSWER: C. But if you blast off only a portion of your ashes (100 grams' worth), you'll pay a more modest $50.
From the April 1, 2007 issue