It's difficult to arrange a dignified and appropriate service for someone you love when you're suffering their loss. Take a steady friend or relative with you to help sort it all out.
Find out from a close family member or a lawyer if the deceased left special requests regarding funeral arrangements.
Set a budget. Prices for caskets and services vary hugely. Expect to spend $5,000 for the viewing, funeral ceremonies and an average casket, excluding charges for a burial plot. Consider less expensive options such as a graveside service only or cremation, which costs between $1,000 and $2,000.
Contact funeral homes. Family members may have their preferences. Ask about payment plans. Consumer advocates say prepaid funerals are generally a poor choice for everyone but the funeral home. And the fees (from $5,000 to $10,000) can really burn you up.
Ask for an itemized price list (required by federal law), and make sure you understand exactly what it includes.
Cut casket costs (which range from $375 to $8,500) by buying one online at sites such as FuneralDepot.com. You will avoid the funeral home's markup, and caskets can be shipped there in a matter of hours, if necessary. Or ask about rental coffins, used for viewing purposes only (the body is buried in a basic casket).
Find out what fees members of the clergy charge for their services, if applicable.
- ['Budget', 'Itemized price list']
Prepayers spend the same amount of money, but the funeral home has their money longer. Check with ConsumersUnion.org and make sure the payments are transferable if you move. You may be eligible for assistance with funeral costs from Social Security, the Veteran's Administration, or your state's health and human services department. Telephone the appropriate agency to obtain application forms.