Know your rights and options. Can you bring a casket purchased elsewhere to a funeral home? Is embalming required? The Federal Trade Commission provides information on the laws regulating funeral goods and services at www.ftc.gov/bcp/rulemaking/funeral/index.htm or call toll-free 1-877-FTC-HELP. Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love, by Lisa Carlson (Upper Access, 1998) covers a wide range of approaches to making funeral arrangements and has state-by-state listings of legal requirements, state-specific consumer concerns, institutions for body donation, and other resources.
Comparison shop. In a 1999 survey of Fort Worth, Texas funeral homes, the price for an immediate burial (no viewing) ranged from $825 to $3,600. So avoid a rip-off by phoning or visiting funeral homes to compare prices. Some local memorial societies can provide a region-specific baseline of fair prices for goods and services. The AARP also provides consumer advice for funerals and related expenses at www.aarp.org/confacts/money/funeral.html. You can also price caskets online—www.directcasket.com is one such retailer. If you are making arrangements due to an unexpected death, have someone who isn’t grieving accompany you to help you ask questions and resist any sales pressure. A specific caveat: Don’t buy "protective seal" caskets. These are sold under the pretense of protecting the body, but because of the action of anaerobic bacteria, reality is quite gruesomely otherwise.