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How to minimize the high cost of dying

This week Your Legal Corner discusses "How to minimize the high cost of dying."

In a irreverent Monty Python comedy skit about death in the middle ages, a caretaker yells 'bring out your dead!" as he takes a cart filled with dead bodies through a village. Somebody carries out an elderly man to throw in the cart only to hear the elderly man exclaim, "I'm not dead!" A debate ensues as to whether the near-death elderly man qualifies to be placed in the cart.

While humorous, the Python comedy skit raises the very real problem many people have of avoiding decisions concerning you or a loved ones' death.   Let's face it; despite all the advances in medicine, every study reveals our mortality rate is still 100 percent!  

We all should follow the example of Former First Lady Nancy Reagan who recently died at the age of 94. Mrs. Reagan planned her funeral service including the guest list, Bible passages, music as well as the flowers. Her planning relieved her family of having to make difficult, emotional decisions while grieving her passing.

Written Instructions

Whatever preparations you make for your own funeral, please provide a list of written instructions to your family. Many a grieving family paid for the funeral only to find out later that their loved one prepaid for their arrangements.

Prepayment

Many people enter into contracts to prepay their funeral costs. Typically, this allows the consumer to lock in the price and avoid rising future costs.

Before doing so, please consider what services and/or merchandise is being provided as part of the agreement. Are you protected should the company go out of business? Lastly, can you get a refund should you change your mind and want to cancel the contract?

Funeral Homes

While it is always better to express your love to your loved one while they are alive, many people still opt for expensive funerals as a sign of their love and devotion. Please know that you have the right to choose the specific goods and services you want as opposed to a package deal. Your funeral director is required by law to provide you an itemized price list, which allows you to compare costs between funeral homes.

Caskets can vary widely in price so a funeral home should provide you with a price list of all their caskets, not just the ones on display. Depending on the material, a casket can range in price from $2,400 to over $10,000. Federal law even allows you to purchase a casket from a third party. A funeral home cannot refuse an outside casket.

Cemeteries

Generally, it is better to deal directly with the cemetery than using the funeral home for this service. In this way, you'll know exactly what you are getting. One should visit the cemetery to make sure they like the grounds as well as the upkeep and maintenance. Many cemeteries have a perpetual care fund that sets aside money for future maintenance.

The cemetery should also provide you with a contract setting forth the itemized cost of the services they are providing. It should also include the exact location of the plot you are buying.

Conscientious Consumer

Please touch base with the Better Business Bureau and the county consumer protection office in your area to learn more about the funeral home and cemetery you are considering. For more information, please visit the Federal Trade Commission Shopping for Funeral Services at www.consumer.ftc.gov.

Till next time, God bless, keep smiling, when Your Legal Corner will discuss "Guns and children."

Victoria M. Dalton is a dedicated Family/Elder Law Attorney with the Law Offices of Hoffman DiMuzio. Email correspondence to [email protected] or call 856-845-8243.

Please note that Your Legal Corner was created to provide educational material about the law and is not legal advice.

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