Frequently Asked Questions



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General Funeral Questions

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What is the average cost of a casket?

The average casket costs slightly more than $2,000. The cost of a casket could run as high as $10,000 if you choose a mahogany, bronze, or copper casket.

What is the General Price List and why is it important?

The General Price List (GPL) is a written, itemized price list that every funeral home is required by law to provide to consumers upon request. It lists all the items and services that the funeral home offers, along with the cost of each item or service. This list is yours to keep.

What are my rights under the Funeral Rule?

Under the FTC Funeral Rule, you have the right to:

  • Buy only the funeral arrangements you want
  • Get pricing information over the phone
  • Get a written, itemized price list when you visit a funeral home
  • See a written casket price list before you actually view the caskets
  • See a written outer burial container price list
  • Receive a written statement after you select what you want, but before paying for it
  • Get an explanation in the written statement from the funeral home that describes any legal cemetery or crematory requirement that requires you to buy any funeral goods or services
  • Use an alternative container instead of a casket for cremation
  • Provide the funeral home with a casket or urn you buy elsewhere
  • Make funeral arrangements without embalming

For detailed information on your rights under the Funeral Rule, visit the FTC website.

What is the FTC Funeral Rule?

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website, “The Funeral Rule ... makes it possible for you to choose only those goods and services you want or need and to pay only for those you select, whether you are making arrangements when a death occurs or in advance. The Rule allows you to compare prices among funeral homes, and makes it possible for you to select the funeral arrangements you want at the funeral home you use. (The Rule does not apply to third-party sellers, such as casket and monument dealers, or to cemeteries that lack an on-site funeral home.)”

Learn more about the Funeral Rule.

Why are funerals so expensive?

A traditional funeral involves a number of services which add to the total cost. Besides a non-declinable basic services fee, other charges may include removal/transfer of the body to the funeral home; embalming; other preparation of the body; use of facilities and staff for viewing; use of facilities and staff for the funeral ceremony; use of a hearse, service car, or van; a basic memorial printed package; metal casket, a vault or grave liner, and purchase of a cemetery plot.

Should I call 911 if a hospice patient dies at home?

No. When a terminally ill patient is receiving hospice care and dies at home, there is no need to call 911 or the doctor. The hospice agency is trained to handle death at home and will follow local regulations about notifying the required authorities in advance, so there will be no legal or medical issues. When the patient dies, instead of calling 911 or the doctor, the family should call their hospice nurse to come to the home. The hospice nurse has the authority to legally pronounce the death and can assist the family to notify their funeral provider to remove the body.

Can my local funeral home still handle the arrangements if a loved one dies away from home?

In most cases, your local funeral home will be experienced in collaborating with out-of-town funeral homes and can handle the details to get your loved one home in the most efficient, cost-effective way.

Can I name a designated agent other than next of kin to make decisions regarding disposition of my body after death?

In many states, you can name a designated agent for the purpose of carrying out your final wishes. Some states have a personal preference law that obligates the survivors to carry out the wishes of the dead, provided these wishes are within reason and can be carried out in a practical manner. Other states permit a person to name a designated agent to be in charge of decisions regarding disposition of the body after death. Some states will also allow a close friend to serve as next of kin if the above relatives are not available or able to serve.

Find out more on each state’s rules governing designated agents.

What recourse does a consumer have for poor service or overcharging?

If you have a complaint or are otherwise dissatisfied, first try contacting the funeral home that provided the services. If you cannot resolve the matter with the funeral home, there are several organizations that may be able to help you.

Depending on the nature of your complaint, one of the following agencies may be able to assist you:

You may also contact your state Attorney General’s office or local consumer protection agency.

What does an average headstone cost?

The price of a headstone will vary depending on the material, where you purchase it, and cost of time and labor to cut and engrave the stone. On average, you can expect to spend $400-$1,700 for a granite headstone.

What is an alternative container?

The law requires that a deceased person be in some kind of container during the cremation process. This can be a wood casket designed for cremation (combustible), or another eco-friendly casket. The minimal container is a cardboard box, considered an “alternative” container.

An alternative container is generally less expensive than a metal casket. It is made of unfinished wood, fiberboard, pressed wood, or composition materials, and lacks fine finish or ornamentation. Alternative containers are often chosen for cremations due to their combustible nature, and may also be the preferred container for direct cremation or green burials.

What are the first things to do when a death occurs?

If hospice is involved:

Call the hospice nurse to inform him or her of the death. The nurse and the hospice agency will then legally pronounce the death, handle any necessary calls, and help with arrangements to have the body transferred to the chosen funeral home.

If hospice is not involved:

  1. Call 911.
  2. Unlock the door.
  3. If the patient had any out-of-hospital Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) document, have it ready to hand to the paramedics immediately when they arrive.
  4. Perform CPR if this is appropriate and there is no DNR document.
  5. Wait for further instructions from the emergency, medical, and law enforcement personnel.

What should I do when an expected death occurs at home?

If the death was expected, but the patient was not under hospice care, you will need to call 911. Both the police and the paramedics will probably respond. Paramedics will treat a “non-attended” (non-hospice) death like any other patient at risk. They do not expect ordinary citizens to be expert at determining death, and will initiate emergency medical procedures. They will probably take the person to the emergency room of the nearest hospital, where death may be officially pronounced by the emergency room doctor.

If the death was expected, and the deceased was under hospice care, do not call 911. Instead, call the hospice nurse. The hospice agency and the nurse will work together to make sure all local regulations are followed. The hospice nurse is authorized to legally pronounce the death and can assist the family to notify their funeral provider to remove the body.

How do I obtain a death certificate?

A death certificate is required by law after a person dies. Two parties must complete the death certificate – a medical professional (either a physician, coroner, or medical examiner) who will certify the death by noting the cause of death, time of death and the identity of the deceased; and a licensed funeral director, who will confirm that the body was properly handled.

The funeral director then files the completed death certificate with the county health department. This document is necessary for making funeral arrangements and handling personal, financial, and legal business on behalf of the person who died and his or her estate. Read more about death certificates and how to get them in each US state.

What is a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order?

A Do Not Resuscitate order, or DNR, is a medical order written by a doctor that instructs health care providers not to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if breathing stops or if the heart stops beating. It allows you to choose whether, in an emergency, you want CPR or other life-saving measures performed. The order does not affect other treatments, such as pain medicine, medicines, or nutrition.

The doctor writes the order only after talking about it with the patient (if possible), the proxy, or family. A DNR order may be part of a hospice care plan.

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