Consumer Protection
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How to Protect Yourself: Caskets and Burial Vaults
Source: The Florida Attorney General's Office


When a loved one dies, quick and often costly decisions about memorial services have to be made. These decisions, frequently made under great emotional distress, can sometimes result in circumstances which are not in your best interest. Before making any decisions, you may want to speak to a friend or a member of the clergy who may be able to help you to objectively evaluate the services available. Before entering into a contract for memorial services, consider these tips:

Caskets
Generally sold for their visual appeal, caskets are made of metal, wood, fiberglass or plastic and can vary extensively in price and style. A casket or coffin is often the most expensive funeral item you will purchase, but is not required for a direct cremation or immediate burial.

Burial vaults and grave liners
Cemeteries often require a burial vault or a grave liner to enclose the casket in a grave. The vault or liner is used to prevent the ground from caving in as the casket deteriorates. Burial vaults are considerably more expensive than liners.

Pre-planning funerals
You may choose to prearrange a funeral instead of waiting until a later date. If so, make sure to inquire about all types of merchandise and services available to you. Also, scrutinize any claims made by the manufacturers of funeral products and ask for substantiation.

Disclosure of information and itemization required
Funeral directors and cemeteries are required to provide you with detailed retail price information over the phone, if requested. This will assist you in comparing prices. In addition, prior to the selection of any merchandise, you are entitled to a detailed written itemization of the retail prices for all items regularly offered for sale. Lastly, be sure to obtain a written agreement/contract, for your retention, upon your final selection of funeral and burial merchandise and services. Make sure that you are clearly advised of your cancellation and refund rights.

Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers
Cemeteries often require a burial vault or a grave liner to enclose the casket in a grave. The vault or liner is used to prevent the ground from caving in as the casket deteriorates. Burial vaults are considerably more expensive than liners.

Board of Funeral and Cemetery Services
The Board and the Florida Department of Banking and Finance regulate cemeteries and cemetery companies, pursuant to Chapter 497, Florida Statutes (1999). The Board and the Department may be contacted at (800) 323-2627.

Preservative and protective claims
The Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) Funeral Rule prohibits funeral providers from making false or deceptive durability claims. Insupportable claims regarding a products ability to resist water, dirt or other gravesite substances are also prohibited.

Additional information
If the company is out-of-state, you may wish to call the appropriate agencies and authorities in the state where the company maintains its headquarters. The Funeral Service Consumer Assistance Program in Des Plaines, Illinois, is available to assist consumers and funeral directors in resolving disagreements about funeral service contracts. They may be reached at (800) 662-7666.

To learn more about the FTC's Funeral Rule, write to: Funerals: A Consumer Guide, Public Reference, FTC, Washington, DC 20580. Also, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) publishes Funeral Goods and Services and Pre-Paying Your Funeral? To request free copies of both publications, write to: AARP Fulfillment, 601 E Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20049.