Can You Afford to Die
The High Cost of Death in America
Are you ready to meet your maker? You do have a will and are your heirs ready to make your final arrangements? Do your heirs know what you want done with your remains? Have you chosen a last resting place and made advance purchases and directives with a funeral home? Do you want to be buried or would you prefer to be cremated? Can you even afford to die? Who will pay for your final expenses? The time when someone passes is one of the most stressful and expensive times in the lives of those left behind. A traditional funeral costs about $6,000 but costs can easily top $10,000. Greed is an unfortunate part of life in America and unscrupulous funeral homes and funeral directors are just like the rest of America. The death of a loved one may be the last chance for someone to make a buck off him or her. How you treat your loved one during his/her life is far more important than how you treat them after death.
What about end of life care? "This book hammers home the barriers that prevent dying people from getting what they want. A review of the book "The Good Death"
The Good Death: An Exploration of Dying in America
Billions of Dollars
Every year Americans spend billions of dollars arranging more than 2 million funerals for family members and friends, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC has a great deal of information at this page The FTC Funeral Rules
The Funeral Rule, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 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 FTC goes undercover every year to see if funeral homes are informing customers of their full range of choices.
Business of Death
Before the Twentieth Century
Before the twentieth century, death was a personal family affair.
Europeans brought the tradition of laying the body out inside the home before it was buried, during which time neighbors and family could visit the home of the bereaved and take a last look at the deceased. A fear of premature burial resulted in the Christian “wake” and the Jewish religious ritual, the “watching.” In both of these cases, looking at the body was deliberate, searching for signs of movement or life in order to avoid burying someone alive.
Until recently, most rural Americans died in their homes surrounded by family members, and funerals were community events. Now more people die in hospitals and nursing homes away from in their homes, away from their family. Instead of family, it is now funeral directors who take charge of the entire affair. Death is hidden away from us now, something to be feared and dreaded so we have very little exposure to the dead. Before the late 19th century, the mortician was uncommon because most people opted to wash and lay out the body themselves in their own homes. The last acts of caring for a loved one were deeply personal, not something to pay a stranger for. Home funerals, and even home embalming would remain popular until the 1920s. Embalming became a necessity during the Civil War and the Crimean war when distant families wanted to have funerals and bury their loved ones near home. Embalming is not a necessity in all modern cases and may just be a way for the funeral home to make more profit. In fact, in many cases the chemicals and the bodily fluids that comes from embalming a body end up in the municipal wastewater. Regulations are scant but we don't like regulations.
Home embalming kit on Oddities
Consider a home funeral.
What choices do we have when a loved one dies, what are the other options to an expensive commercial funeral service?
Consider a home funeral. In most states it’s perfectly legal to complete the death certificate (with the doctor’s or medical examiner’s certification), file it, care for the body at home, and take it to the cemetery or crematory. Most families in this country did so routinely until the turn of the 20th century. The FCA (Funeral Consumers Alliance) national office can help guide families, or you can turn to the new book Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death for specific requirements in your state.
How to have a home funeral
How do you file and obtain a death certificate?
The completion and submission of the death certificate forms to the Bureau of Vital Statistics is usually handled by the funeral home that will be overseeing the burial or cremation. Charging extra for filing the death certificate or getting it medically certified is a violation of FTC rules. Information needed to file a death certificate includes the deceased's: social security card, occupation at time of death, address, including county and zip code, surviving spouse's name, parent's names, including mother's maiden name, place of burial, including cemetery section, lot and space.
Funeral Consumers Alliance is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting a consumer's right to choose a meaningful, dignified, affordable funeral. We do for funeral purchases what Consumer Reports does for products.
Average cost of a funeral:
Consider an eco-friendly "Green Burial"
Scripture says "from dust to dust" but we spend huge amounts on delaying the decay of our bodies. Embalming, bronze caskets, concrete vaults and cemetery plots all seem to be designed to keep our bodies fresh and lifelike for as long as possible. Huh? When is the last time you heard about someone's grave being dug up to view the decedent? Caskets do come with sturdy handles, so if you want to dig one up it will be easy to carry it around. Maybe this has something to do with the zombie fad on TV? There is a growing movement in many parts of the world to return to a time when bodies were returned to the earth, there to become part of the environment and perhaps to fertilize a growing tree or a patch of wildflowers. A green burial uses no embalming, no burial vault and uses a biodegradable coffin or even a shroud to be buried in. Cremation is still an option with a green burial but with cremation, you are still releasing dioxin, hydrochloric acid, hydrofluoric acid, sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide., defeating some of the advantage. A green burial is like choosing a Prius instead of your neighbor who chose a Hummer. Choosing a green burial can also be much less costly than a traditional burial.
How about composting? Certainly a green alternative and you could end up in the mulch on someones flower bed.From Compost You Came and to Compost You Shall Return
Can I avoid the cost of a funeral by donating my body?
Medical schools around the country are in need of bodies to train the next generation of doctors. You can avoid outrageous funeral costs and at the same time be generous by helping advance medical training. This page will direct you to Medical Schools by State
The average cost of cremation is a fraction of funeral and burial costs in any market, less than a quarter of the $10,000+ cost of an average funeral and burial. With cremation, there is no need to embalm or to purchase a cemetery plot, casket, burial vault, crypt or gravestone. Most states will require a cremation container which can be as simple as a cardboard box or a rental casket with a removable liner. Funeral directors may not tell you that state or local law requires a casket for direct cremations, because none do; must disclose in writing your right to buy an unfinished wood box or an alternative container for a direct cremation; and must make an unfinished wood box or other alternative container available for direct cremations.
In 2011, the last year for which numbers are available, 42 percent were cremated. Many families choosing cremation forego a traditional funeral in place of a memorial service or family gathering. You can decide what to do with the ashes because ashes are not considered a bio-hazard. People are choosing many different ways to honor their loved one, ashes are being put into orbit, put on the surface of the moon, ashes have been made into 250 pencils and ashes have been made into diamonds that people can wear.
Basic services fee
The basic service fee is the fee paid to the funeral home regardless of the other services and products that you choose. These include funeral planning, securing the necessary permits and copies of death certificates, preparing the notices, sheltering the remains, and coordinating the arrangements with the cemetery, crematory or other third parties. There are many other items that you will be charged for item by item such as the use of the funeral home for viewing or services, limousines to transport the family, staff for a gravesite service and any payment you make to your pastor, priest or rabbi etc.
Calculating the costs http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0301-funeral-costs-and-pricing-checklist
Caskets Burial liners Embalming Headstones
A casket typically come with a 300 to 500 percent markup, often the most expensive item you'll buy in making arrangements, prices range from about $2,000 to well over $10,000. In a funeral home, cheap caskets will usually be made to appear cheap and salespersons may play on your grief to get you to spend more: "Your husband was a big man, he really needs a larger casket for his shoulders" was a statement made to my grandmother when planning my grandfather's funeral.
Funeral provider may not refuse, or charge a fee, to handle a casket, you have the right to purchase a casket from any seller and have it delivered to the funeral home. Do you really want an expensive bronze casket? If you want it to last a long time, perhaps you do need the top of the line casket, do you plan on using it repeatedly, or are you going to dig a hole and bury the casket?
Using a liner in a grave is something that is required by some cemeteries but not all. The real purpose of a vault or burial liner is to protect the cemetery lawn from sinking into a grave. Prices for liners can as much or more than caskets, remember that it is just a box for the box which gets quickly covered by the cemetery lawn.
Embalming is rarely required by law
An unscrupulous funeral home may claiming that embalming is required by law when it's not. Check with your state. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Canadian health authorities embalming provides no public health benefit. Embalming is optional. Many funeral homes require embalming if you're planning a viewing or visitation but embalming generally is unnecessary if the body is buried or cremated shortly after death.
Headstones can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars for a simple flat marker to the sky is the limit. You may want to ask yourself, who will view this headstone and will they remember the person buried there. Walk through any graveyard and you will see monuments to people buried and forgotten long ago. This is mostly just another way to get more money from people at a time of grief. There are exceptions of course; famous people and people who have left their mark on society may have appropriately elaborate tombstones to remain for historical interest. Cost will depend on material first, with marble usually costing more than granite yet some marble wears relatively quickly. Other stones are imported from around the country and around the world for those who wish to make a "statement". Costs will vary widely depending on from whom it is purchased, the amount and quality of engraving, any bronze markers or photographs can all add to the cost significantly.