Making funeral arrangements is one of the most difficult times in a person’s life. It’s also one of the most expensive purchases a consumer will ever make. It’s important that before a consumer makes any funeral arrangements, they check to make sure they are dealing with a licensed funeral director in good standing at www.mass.gov/dpl.
What is a licensed funeral director?
The Board of Registration of Embalmers and Funeral Directors oversees the examination and licensing of those providing services for the deceased and their families, including embalming and crematory services, funeral arrangements and family assistance. The Board also inspects the facilities of licensed embalmers and funeral directors to determine adherence to the health-related rules set forth by the Board and local health departments.
Consumer Checklist for Making Funeral Arrangements:
- Make a list of wants and needs. What type of funeral will you be having? Consumers should consider cultural preferences, religious views, and whether it will be a public or private service.
- Determine the budget. Consider how much you are able to spend and know whether insurance will cover the cost.
- Get several quotes and ask about package options or whether it’s best to buy items separately. Funeral Directors must provide prices over the phone and must provide a written price list of the goods and services they offer before they show you any goods; they must allow you to use a casket purchased elsewhere and may not charge a fee for this; they must explain your options such as cremation, direct burial without embalming, etc.; if cremation is chosen they must allow you an alternative container to a casket (they may offer a rental casket for viewings); they must explain costs associated with burial and provide you with a price list.
- When paying for services, make sure everything is in writing and that you understand all costs.
- Plan for the disposition of remains through burial or cremation. Has a plot been purchased? What costs will the cemetery charge? If cremation is chosen, what do you plan for the ashes?
Pre-paying for Funeral Arrangements
Some consumers pre-pay for their funeral. Under this type of arrangement, the funeral director must provide the standardized contract approved by the Board of Registration in Embalming and Funeral Directing. This contract will have three parts:
- Standardized Pre-need Funeral Contract
- Itemized Statement of Funeral Goods and Services (FTC compliant)
- Trust Document with a Bank or Insurance Policy
Consumers who plan to pre-pay for their funeral arrangements should also:
- Know which costs are guaranteed and which may change.
- If funded through a trust account- know the name of the bank trustee.
- If funded through an insurance policy, know whether the funeral director received a commission, know the insurance company and policy number.
- Know what happens if the funeral home is sold or goes out of business.
- Know whether and how the contract can be changed.
- Know you have 10 days from signing to cancel the contract and get a refund.
- Notify a family member or legal representative of this arrangement.
Consumers who encounter difficulties with a funeral director related to any of these issues, should contact the Division of Professional Licensure’s Office of Investigations at (617) 727-7406. Additional helpful information from the Federal Trade Commission can also be found at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0300-ftc-funeral-rule.
If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for all Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s Lemon Laws, data breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Program and the state’s Do Not Call Registry.
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