Smart Steps for Funeral Planning

SMART PLANNING: The Oklahoma Society of Certified Public Accountants offers some advice about funeral planning and the costs that come along with it. There are a number of ways to make sure that the costs stay in line.

Courtesy of Oklahoma Society of Certified Public Accountants

Many people experience anxiety at the thought of planning for a funeral, but a little forethought can ensure that a loved one receives what he or she desires while minimizing unnecessary expenses and stress during a difficult time. Be aware that the expense of a funeral can rise very quickly. In fact, according to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average cost is more than $7,000, and that does not include cemetery and monument expenses, flowers or obituaries. The Oklahoma Society of Certified Public Accountants offers some advice to help keep costs in line.

What do they really want?
If possible, have a candid discussion with loved ones to find out exactly what kind of funeral they would like. If they favor a cremation with their ashes spread in a favorite spot, for example, knowing this in advance will prevent you from spending a great deal of money on an elaborate funeral that would not have been the deceased’s choice. Having this discussion now can cut down on the second guessing and expenses.

Shop around.
No matter what you’re buying, it’s always a good idea to have an informed idea of what’s available and how much it will cost. It’s also smart to shop around and compare costs to get the best price. As part of the planning, call different funeral homes to see who has the best prices. This is also a good time to visit the most appealing places to see if you like the location and the people who run it. If you can find a funeral home run by knowledgeable, caring people, it’s more likely you will feel that the price you pay is worthwhile.

Know your rights.
It’s often difficult to make clear-eyed financial decisions immediately after the death of a loved one. That’s why there are a number of protections in place to help consumers in their dealings with funeral homes to ensure that no one takes advantage of bereaved loved ones. For example, under Federal Trade Commission regulations, the funeral home must give you a general price list detailing the cost of every item or service that you might need so that you can make choices that don’t leave you struggling to pay the funeral bill.

You should also get a casket price list, since this is often one of the most expensive elements in of funeral. Be aware, too, that you should be able to supply your own casket or urn without being charged a handling fee by the funeral home. In addition, you are not required to buy a full package of goods and services. Instead, the funeral home must let you select the items you really want. To learn more, the Federal Trade Commission site includes a special section on funeral rights at FTC. In addition to federal consumer regulations, you can research local regulations at OK Funeral.

Be familiar with funeral myths.
The Web site of the Funeral Consumers Alliance at also offers a wealth of information about consumer rights, including a self-help section with frequently asked questions. The site debunks some common funeral myths, such as the idea that prepaying for the funeral always makes the best economic sense.

Families often find themselves faced with complicated financial decisions that must be made at stressful times. Turn to a CPA for advice on any of the financial decisions facing your family.

With more than 6,600 members in public practice, industry, government and education, the OSCPA is Oklahoma’s only statewide professional association of CPAs. Since 1918, the organization has continued to provide professional education, conduct quality reviews and promote and maintain high standards of integrity and competence within the accounting profession. Visit Know What Counts for more financial tips and a free CPA referral and free consultation.

Updated 05-26-2009

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