Pre-paying for your funeral could leave your family picking up the cost

ATLANTA — WSB consumer adviser, Clark Howard said not comparison shopping when planning a funeral could cost you thousands.

Clark said that’s just one of many mistakes people make when making end-of-life arraignments. Pre-paying for a funeral is another common error.

Jalna Wigfal’s mother prepaid for her cremation, vault and viewing.

“She had certificates, she had letters that they had confirmed her last payment, and anytime that it came to pass that she needed to use it, it was there,” Wigfal said.

That’s not how it played out. After age and health issues forced her to move out of state, the cemetery would not refund the money or transfer it to a different location, leaving Wigfal to pick up the cost of her mother’s funeral.

“It did put a burden on me,” Wigfal said.

Steve Brobeck, the executive director of The Consumer Federation of America (CFA), said most consumers are not aware of their rights when it comes to planning a funeral.


The Funeral Rule, which is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission, makes it clear that funeral homes must give consumers an itemized general price list when they enter the facility and provide key price information over the phone.

“Most consumers are not even aware that they have that right to price information,” Brobeck said.

He said the price disclosure should be mandatory for funeral home websites.

According to a report by the CFA and the Funeral Consumers Alliance, of the 211 funeral homes looked at, only 193 had websites and only 16% of those posted a complete general price list online.

“The fact is that when they don’t adequately disclose online, they are able to price much higher than they would in a truly price competitive market,” Brobeck said

Brobeck said the change would be small for businesses and make a huge difference for consumers.

“It’s simply taking a document, sticking it on their website and making a reference to that document on the home page,” Brobeck said

Clark said regardless of what changes are made to the rule, there are ways for you to save big when planning a funeral.

"You can take this under control right now, because we are lucky in Atlanta to have the Memorial Society of Georgia that negotiates fantastic rates for its members for funerals and cremations. Incredible savings, typically 50 percent below what people normally pay,” Clark said.

A lifetime membership with the Memorial Society of Georgia is $35.