Consumer Reports: Funeral prices revealed

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When a loved one dies, few people want to think about economizing on the funeral. (WLS)

When a loved one dies, few people want to think about economizing on the funeral. Adding to the stress, many funeral homes make it hard to comparison shop.

They're not required to post their prices online - and many don't. But that may change soon.

Consumer Reports has advice on how to manage funeral costs and more on the move to make funeral homes more transparent.

Stephanie Garry runs one of the handful of nonprofit funeral homes in the country. She and funeral director Mitch Kronish said it should be quick and easy for families to estimate the cost of a funeral.

"We post our prices on our website. We also make our prices available at our front door and over the phone, email, fax," Kronish said.

"Whatever we can do to ease that burden, we try to do," Garry said.

They also publish the prices charged by nearby funeral homes.

Consumer Reports Nikhil Hutheesing said a proposal before the Federal Trade Commission would require that all funeral homes publish their prices online.

"Funerals can cost thousands of dollars, and usually time is of the essence. The problem is you often have to call or visit the funeral home to get a price sheet," said Nikhil Hutheesing, Money Editor, Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports recommends getting quotes from as many as five different funeral homes, setting a firm budget, and don't be pushed into spending more.

"One thing you may not know is that you don't have to buy the full package that a funeral home may pitch. You have the right to pay a la carte just for the products and services you want," Hutheesing said.

For instance, you don't have to buy the casket at the funeral home. Retailers like Costco sell them, too, and will deliver.

Also, embalming is generally not needed if the burial or cremation takes place within a certain time.

Dropping the viewing can save money as well.

"The FTC has a handy checklist for funeral services and products. Just go to FTC.gov and type in 'funeral checklist.'" Hutheesing said.

Once you've decided on a funeral home, you're entitled by law to get an itemized statement so you know exactly what you will pay in the end.

It's not out of line to negotiate with a funeral home. Consumer Reports said that it's worth trying, especially if you are on a fixed or low income.

All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2016. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not for profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit consumer.org
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