The Funeral Rule: Rules You Should Know

Funeral Planning

Posted on January 02, 2013 by Rachel Zeldin

The following rules, commonly referred to as The Funeral Rule, were established and enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to protect consumers during the funeral planning process.

Buy only the funeral arrangements you want 

You have the right to buy separate goods (such as caskets) and services (such as embalming or a memorial service). You do not have to accept a package that may include items you do not want.

General Price List (GPL)

If you visit a funeral home in person, the funeral provider is required by law to give you a general price list itemizing the cost of the items and services the home offers.

Casket and Outer Burial Container Price List

If the general price list does not include specific prices of caskets or outer burial containers, the law requires the funeral director to show you the price lists for those items before showing you the items.

Get Prices by Phone

The Funeral Rule requires funeral directors to provide price information over the phone to any caller who asks for it. Though not required by law (yet), many will fax, email, or mail you a copy of the GPL as well.

À La Carte Funeral Pricing

Many funeral providers offer various "packages" of commonly selected goods and services that make up a funeral. But when you arrange for a funeral, you have the right to buy individual goods and services. That is, you do not have to accept a package that may include items you do not want.

3rd Party Caskets - No Penalty or Fee

The funeral provider may not refuse, or charge a fee, to handle a casket you bought elsewhere.

Alternative Cremation Containers

A funeral provider that offers cremations must make alternative containers available other than a casket.  Such containers are usually be made of corrugated cardboard or fiberboard.

Receive a written statement after you decide what you want, and before you pay

It should show exactly what you are buying and the cost of each item. The funeral home must give you a statement listing every good and service you have selected, the price of each, and the total cost immediately after you make the arrangements.

Get an explanation in the written statement from the funeral home that describes any legal requirements

If there are any legally mandated funeral, cemetery, or crematory requirements that requires you to buy any funeral goods or services, explaination of these must be provided to you in a written statement.

Make funeral arrangements without embalming

No state law requires routine embalming for every death. Some states require embalming or refrigeration if the body is not buried or cremated within a certain time; some states don’t require it at all. In most cases, refrigeration is an acceptable alternative.

In addition, you may choose services like direct cremation and immediate burial, which don’t require any form of preservation. Many funeral homes have a policy requiring embalming if the body is to be publicly viewed, but this is not required by law in most states. Ask if the funeral home offers private family viewing without embalming. If some form of preservation is a practical necessity, ask the funeral home if refrigeration is available.

For more information on The Funeral Rule and funeral planning, visit the FTC online.