13+ Things A Funeral Director Won’t Tell You

Read the money-saving secrets funeral directors from across the country aren't taking to the grave with these insider tips for planning a funeral.

By Michelle Crouch from Reader's Digest Magazine | June/July 2011
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    1.Go ahead and plan your funeral,

    but think twice before paying in advance. You risk losing everything if the funeral home goes out of business. Instead, keep your money in a pay-on-death account at your bank.

    2. If you or your spouse is an honorably discharged veteran,

    burial is free at a Veterans Affairs National Cemetery. This includes the grave, vault, opening and closing, marker, and setting fee. Many State Veterans Cemeteries offer free burial for veterans and, often, spouses (www.cem.va.gov).

    3. You can buy caskets that are just as nice as the ones in my showroom for thousands of dollars less online from Walmart, Costco, or straight from a manufacturer.

    4. On a budget or concerned about the environment?

    Consider a rental casket. The body stays inside the casket in a thick cardboard container, which is then removed for burial or cremation.

    5. Running a funeral home without a refrigerated holding room is like running a restaurant without a walk-in cooler.

    But many funeral homes don’t offer one because they want you to pay for the more costly option: embalming. Most bodies can be presented very nicely without it if you have the viewing within a few days of death.

    6. Some hard-sell phrases to be wary of:

    “Given your position in the community …,” “I’m sure you want what’s best for your mother,” and “Your mother had excellent taste. When she made arrangements for Aunt Nellie, this is what she chose.”

    7. “Protective” caskets with a rubber gasket?

    They don’t stop decomposition. In fact, the moisture and gases they trap inside have caused caskets to explode.

    8. If there’s no low-cost casket in the display room, ask to see one anyway.

    Some funeral homes hide them in the basement or the boiler room.

    9. Ask the crematory to return the ashes in a plain metal or plastic container — not one stamped temporary container.

    That’s just a sleazy tactic to get you to purchase a more expensive urn.

    10. Shop around.

    Prices at funeral homes vary wildly, with direct cremation costing $500 at one funeral home and $3,000 down the street. (Federal law requires that prices be provided over the phone.)

    11. We remove pacemakers because the batteries damage our crematories.

    12. If I try to sell you a package that I say will save you money, ask for the individual price list anyway.

    Our packages often include services you don’t want or need.

    13. Yes, technically I am an undertaker or a mortician. But doesn’t funeral director have a nicer ring to it?

    14. Sure, you can store ashes in an urn or scatter them somewhere special,

    but nowadays you can also have them crushed into a real diamond, integrated into an underwater coral reef, or blasted into space.

    Learn about green burials »

    15. It’s usually less expensive if the body is not present for the funeral.

    16. If the deceased’s favorite outfit is a size too small or a size too big, bring it to us anyway.

    Part of our job is making the clothes lie perfectly.

    17. If I ask you for a photograph of the deceased to help me prepare the body,

    I don’t mean her honeymoon picture from decades ago.

    18. That may be real gold in your loved one’s dental fillings or crowns,

    but don’t ask me to remove them for you.

    19. Never trust a funeral director who says, “This is the last thing you can do for your loved one.”

    20. You don’t need to spend money to have a meaningful service.

    Consider a potluck at the widow’s home or an informal ceremony at a favorite park, and ask survivors to tell stories or read poetry.

    21. Always bring another person when you meet with me,

    ideally someone who’s not as emotionally attached to the deceased.


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    Your Comments

    • mepom12

      Oh shirtzy is it my final home….I would love the cardboard box, so there would not be an explosion underground to wake me up. Oh well, I`m donating my body to save lives instead of letting it rotten and be eating by whatever is there..But, it`s interesting how people still take advantages of the vulnerability of the dead. Maybe Obamacare should be for the dead and not for the alive ones, care for the cemetery, the cadavers, and make sure all of them receive the appropriate care accordly with their taxes returns throughout their lives on earth, and not play Robin Hood with someones money.

    • faye Paolino

      Even if you pay in advance your loved one can be charged extra as it was for my brother last month. Had I been in charge I would not have paid extra

      • Shane Welch

        You do not say what extra charges you paid for your brother. Funeral service and merchandise costs are locked in at the time of the pre-arrangement. If you decide at the time of death to upgrade, change the preneed contract, or purchase 3rd party items, you will be charged extra. This would be explained to you by the funeral director.

        • faye Paolino

          This happened in Louisiana. My brother paid for all before he passed. I am not sure what his daughter paid extra but I will find out.

    • a dentist

      If you decide on cremation, be sure to tell the funeral director to have the crematorium return all metals to you (i.e. gold crowns). That could be several thousand dollars that they keep.

      • Shane Welch

        Funeral directors are not in the business of removing gold crowns. They do not keep them. This is a false accusation. If the family wants the gold crowns (not worth much) they should have a dentist remove them; this is not the responsibility of the funeral director.

      • Iodine-o-Saur

        More often then not, the cost of having a dental surgeon remove the teeth (and good luck finding one who will) is hardly worth the money returned from dental gold (provided you can find someone to buy it, that is).

    • Guest

      WHY is a ‘Lifetime’ Guarantee offered on a coffin when the person who will occupy it is already dead?

    • Marty

      I’m getting taken care of for free. I’ve given my body to Life Sciences — a company in Phoenix that will pick me up for free in Denver, transport my body to Phoenix, the send all or parts of me to one or more medical schools for study. Afterwards the parts are returned to Life Sciences for cremation and the ashes reutrned to my family. No cost whatsoever!

    • Diggur

      Again, number 11 is misleading. We DO remove pacemakers because they explode and damage our crematory. If you had ever heard one explode, and seen what it does to the fire brick, you would know why. If families want them back, they can have them, and that is stated in the cremation authorization. Otherwise we donate them to charities like Heart to Heart.

    • Diggur

      Number 8 is also untrue. Funeral homes are required by law to display a variety of caskets in a range of prices. They will also have a catalog displayed in the casket room where you can look at other caskets that are available since they couldn’t possibly keep every single one on the display floor. We display everything from cardboard caskets, to rental caskets, to metal, to wood. Just ask if you don’t see what you’re looking for.

    • Diggur

      Number 5 is another misleading statement. Bodies decompose at different rates. Usually within 24 hours there is gas distention of the abdomen, discoloration of the skin, and other unpleasant developments. There are certain drugs – particularly cancer drugs – that can cause accelerated decomposition. I have seen bodies begin to decompose badly within a few hours These things happen even with refrigeration. Also, the majority of cemeteries require embalming before burial, and many require vaults in addition to the caskets. This is a requirement of the cemeteries, not the Funeral Director. Putting a diseased body into in a cardboard box with no embalming, as they suggest in this article, is a danger to public health. Embalming is not just a cosmetic fix that allows loved ones a pleasant memory of the deceased, it also disinfects and preserves the body. If you want to save money on embalming, then opt for cremation.

    • Diggur

      First of all, when you plan a pre-need with a legitimate funeral home, it will be put into a trust with a third party – usually a bank. Even if the funeral home goes up in smoke, your money will be safe in a trust that is in your name with the funeral home as beneficiary. But you can cancel the trust and reclaim the money at any time. Additionally, buying a preneed at a legitimate funeral home protects you from inflation by freezing your funeral prices at today’s levels. The Funeral Director gets any interest that is accrued to cover his additional costs. If you decide to move your pre-need to another funeral home – for instance if you move to another state – some Funeral Directors will charge a small fee for the transfer, and some charge nothing. Ask in advance. I am a Funeral Director and a Mortician, and I have found that most legitimate Directors are very trustworthy, but I have also had trouble with some of the people who call themselves “Cremation Societies”. Check the reputation of your Funeral Director and you will not have any problems. This article is not very truthful.

    • myopinion

      This article is a disgrace to legitimate funeral homes. You make it sound like every funeral director is a lying crook.