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The death of a loved one is a difficult experience nearly everyone faces and because such arrangements must be made quickly persons unprepared to make them could later realize they had made a costly decision. Funeral costs usually do not include cemetery lots or other cemetery costs such as burial.

There are options available that can help keep costs down. Also, federal regulations that went into effect in 1984 make it easier to obtain information about a funeral director/provider's prices and services. There are two major components to planning a funeral: funeral costs and final disposition expenses. Funeral costs usually include: professional and staff services, preparation & filing of legal documents and notices (death certificates) and preparation of the body (which includes embalming).

Facilities & equipment services should include: wakes or visitations, use of vehicles such as hearses or limousines. Each of these should be listed separately on an itemized price list. Merchandise or funeral goods should include: caskets, burial vaults, etc. Final disposition costs will be determined by the options you select. Funeral directors/providers have no control over cemetery expenses.

A direct burial is usually less expensive than burial above ground (usually in a mausoleum). Other costs to consider involve the donations of organs or tissues. Memorial Societies are organizations of consumers who help members make funeral plans in advance, considering all the alternatives and legal requirements. Funeral providers may continue to offer package deals but you do not have to accept them. You may purchase only the items you want. The director must also disclose, in writing, that embalming is not required by law except in certain situations. You must be offered, in writing, the right to purchase an alternative container for a direct cremation and the funeral provider must make such a container available.

Providers may charge more for cash advance items but they must make an accurate representation. Some costs can be covered by inquiring about Social Security benefits, veterans benefits, union welfare funds, retirement plans, insurance policies and employer funded programs.

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