How Much Does a Funeral Cost?
14 Hidden Funeral Costs (and How You Can Avoid Them)
Planning a funeral is a difficult process. Whether you’re making preparations for your own farewell or arranging for the goodbye of a loved one, the options, costs, and decisions are often overwhelming – especially at such an emotional time.
Most people are prepared, however, for the main choices that they will face. Which funeral home to use, the type of service, choosing the right casket – none of these decisions is easy, but they are expected. Research and due diligence can help inform these selections, and provide an idea of the associated expenses.
Unfortunately, funerals also come with hidden costs. These unexpected charges can quickly add up, contributing to higher bills and higher stress. Here, we examine some common hidden funeral costs, and what you can do to avoid them.
Funeral home upcharges
1. The fancy casket.
While the casket is not a “hidden” charge per se, some funeral homes do literally hide lower priced models away from the showroom to entice customers to spend more. Funeral homes are required by law to show customers a list of all available caskets and their prices, so make sure to ask about all of your options. Remember that it may be possible to order a different color or design that meets both your wishes and your budget.
2. The package deal.
Many funeral homes offer packages that may initially seem like a good deal. Ask for a breakdown of everything that the package includes, and how the package price compares to the “regular” price. You may not need or want every component of the package, or rates may have been adjusted to seem like a better bargain than they really are (the casket may be cheaper, for instance, but the funeral director’s fee is higher to compensate.)
Some organizations charge extra for visitation time before the funeral or memorial service, for after-hours service calls, or to hold the service on a weekend. Be sure to understand any price variance in different days, times, and hours of facility usage.
4. Accessories and atmosphere.
Ask whether things like a register book, memorial cards, acknowledgement cards, and religious items such as a cross are included, or provided at extra cost. This goes for the atmosphere of the service, too. Does the funeral home offer flowers, music, decorations, etc.? If so, understand what they charge, what you’re potentially already paying for, and whether you can provide any on your own.
5. Storage surcharges.
Determine whether the funeral home charges additional fees for storage of the remains, including refrigeration, for a reasonable period of time before the service or disposition. Some businesses add surcharges for autopsied remains as well; find out if you will pay extra should that be necessary.
6. Service fees.
These may include anything and everything, such as use of the chapel, staffing fees, the funeral director’s time, cemetery arrangements, permits and paperwork, and more. According to the FTC, these tasks should take four hours or less and should not be a large expense. Get a list of each service that you’re paying for to understand what’s really necessary, and what you may be able to provide yourself or do without.
Some funeral homes charge for placing an obituary, while some provide the service free of charge. You may also place an obituary yourself. While death notices in newspapers don’t typically cost anything, you will have to pay by the word or line to include a picture or written commemoration.
Whether you choose to work with the funeral home to create programs, or design and print them yourself, it’s important to factor in the expense.
9. Death certificates.
Like other associated paperwork, the death certificate may or may not be covered by your funeral home. Note that each official certificate must be purchased separately, so be sure to plan appropriately for your proof of death requirements.
Additional burial expenses
10. Grave opening and closing.
Many cemeteries charge to open the burial plot, and again to replace the earth after interment. These fees often change depending on the day and season – they can double on weekends and holidays – so ask for rates specific to the date of your service if possible.
11. Burial vaults.
Most cemeteries require caskets to be placed in a vault before going into the ground. You must account for the cost of the vault, as well as vault delivery and installation. Note that some cemeteries insist on installing vaults themselves, while others allow for the vault company to install it directly, which also impacts the overall cost.
12. Temporary grave markers.
It can take up to six weeks for a headstone to be engraved, delivered, and installed. Your cemetery will typically require a temporary marker, at your expense, as a placeholder during that time.
13. Service and setup fees.
In addition to the graveside service fees, some cemeteries “nickel and dime” customers with separate charges for things like an awning, chairs, or carpeting. As with funeral homes, ask for a price list to learn what the graveside service does and does not include.
14. Ongoing gravesite care.
Gravesite maintenance is often included in the price of a cemetery plot, but some places charge up to 10% more for this service.
While funerals may be sad, they need not be stressful. Ask detailed questions of your funeral home and cemetery to make sure that you know exactly what you’re paying for, and to ensure that your loved one’s sendoff isn’t clouded by unnecessary expense.