You will be relieved to know there’s some very helpful regulations that have been established to help consumers who are shopping for funeral services.
Knowing these consumer friendly rules will help you better navigate funeral planning, and ensure you don’t get taken advantage of.
At the same time, there are some rules to follow when it comes to a cremation or burial.
Knowing the few rules that do exist will help ensure you don’t design a funeral that will get you into hot water with your state or local government.
In this article, we’ll outline all the rules that protect the consumer, and the rules that regulate cremations and burials.
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In an effort to protect vulnerable consumers, the FTC established some rules that give consumers certain rights when soliciting services from a funeral home.
What Is The Funeral Rule?
The funeral rule was established by the FTC in 1984 to ensure consumers have the right to only purchase the services they deem appropriate. These rules apply whether you are shopping in advance or after a loved one has departed.
The funeral rule only applies to funeral homes. It does not apply to third party vendors such as retailers of caskets, urns, burial insurance providers, or cemeteries without an onsite funeral home.
Here are your rights under the funeral rule:
- Obtain pricing over the phone: When you call a funeral home for prices, they are required to disclose their rates. Furthermore, you do not have to give any personal information such as name, phone number, or address. Basically, if you ask for prices, they must comply, and they must do so with no questions asked.
- Only purchase the funeral arrangements you want: This rule gives you the right to buy individual services or goods. You are not required to buy items as part of a package. For example, a funeral home can’t require you to buy an all-inclusive package when all you really want is a casket.
- General price list: Every funeral home must show you a general price list (GPL). The price list is something you are entitled to keep. It will outline all the services they offer and the price for each one.
- See a written statement after you decide, and before you buy: After you decide what you want to purchase, the funeral home must provide you with an itemized price list that details all the items you selected, the prices for each item, and the total cost.
- Forgo embalming: No state requires embalming. Therefore, if you choose to, you may opt out of this service. At the same time, some states do require refrigeration or embalming if the body is not buried or cremated within a certain time frame. Some funeral homes may have an embalming requirement for a public viewing of the body (they can’t require this for the burial). You can always ask if refrigeration is an acceptable alternative if they have that rule.
- Use a casket or urn from another vendor: The funeral home must not refuse a casket or urn that you elect to purchase from a third-party vendor. Furthermore, the funeral home cannot require that you are present when the casket or urn is delivered to the funeral home.
- Use of alternative containers for cremation: There are no local or state laws that require a casket for a cremation. Funeral homes that offer cremation must inform you that alternative containers are an option, and they must have them available for purchase
- A written letter explaining any legal crematory or cemetery requirement: Basically, if there is a good or service you are required by law to purchase, they must provide written evidence of this fact.
- Outer burial price lists: Although not required by law in any state, some cemeteries require them to prevent the grave from caving in. If the funeral home doesn’t show the outer burial on their general price list, they must show it to you on a separate price sheet.
- See casket prices before you see the actual caskets: A funeral home must show you a casket price list before taking you to view the actual caskets. Some funeral homes may not list all their caskets on their GPL.
All U.S.states have the right to govern their territory as they see fit. Cremation rules are no exception.
This is very important
Be sure to check your local city and county ordinances in addition to state regulations. Their rules may differ from the state. For example, Alabama has no state regulation regarding where ashes my be spread or buried, but certain cities and counties do.
Another thing to be mindful of is private property. If you desire to bury or spread ashes on private property, make sure you solicit the owner’s approval first.
If there are no rules, you may keep, spread or bury ashes anywhere you desire.
- Alabama: No rules
- Alaska: No rules
- Arizona: No rules
- Arkansas: No rules
- California: Lots of rules to adhere to
- Colorado: A few rules to follow
- Connecticut: No rules
- Delaware: A few rules to follow
- District Of Columbia: No rules
- Florida: No rules
- Georgia: A few rules to follow
- Hawaii: No rules
- Idaho: No rules
- Illinois: A few rules to follow
- Indiana: A few rules to follow
- Iowa: A few rules to follow
- Kansas: No rules
- Kentucky: A few rules to follow
- Louisiana: No rules
- Maine: A few rules to follow
- Maryland: No rules
- Massachusetts: A few rules to follow
- Michigan: No rules
- Minnesota: No rules
- Mississippi: No rules
- Missouri: No rules
- Montana: No rules
- Nebraska: No rules
- Nevada: No rules
- New Hampshire: No rules
- New Jersey: No rules
- New Mexico: No rules
- New York: No rules
- North Carolina: A few rules to follow
- North Dakota: No rules
- Ohio: No rules
- Oklahoma: No rules
- Oregon: No rules
- Pennsylvania: No rules
- Rhode Island: No rules
- South Carolina: No rules
- South Dakota: A few rules to follow
- Tennessee: No rules
- Texas: A few rules to follow
- Utah: No rules
- Vermont: No rules
- Virginia: No rules
- Washington: No rules
- West Virginia: No rules
- Wisconsin: A few rules to follow
- Wyoming: No rules
Cremated ashes are not harmful which is why there are usually little to no regulations governing how they are stored and disposed.
Burying a deceased is quite different. You cannot simply bury a body in any location you please (in some places you can). Virtually every state has some sort of regulation when it comes to burying a body.
Those states that do have burial regulations typically only govern where a body can be buried, and/or whether or not there is an embalming requirement.
At the end of the day, you have three basic options if you prefer a burial.
- Home Burial– Burying a body on private property
- Green/Natural Burial– A little to no environmental impact burial
- Traditional Burial– The quintessential burial utilizing a casket
Green burials are almost always allowed, so you won’t run into much resistance if you desire to go that route. The same is true for a traditional burial.
Make sure you check your local zoning laws before you take any action. While your state might not have a regulation that interferes with your game plan, your city or county might.
Fortunately, burials are quite commonplace, so there is little to no regulation that will stand in your way unless your desire is to bury a body somewhere other than a cemetery.