Getting Funeral Pricing Information Is Difficult, Survey Shows

April 12, 2016

If you’ve lost a loved one, the last thing you want to do is spend a lot of time researching funeral homes to find the best prices. Unfortunately, funeral homes do not make it easy to figure out how much a funeral will cost. A survey by two consumer groups found that prices between funeral homes varied widely and getting information about pricing was difficult.

The Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) and the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) teamed up to survey 150 funeral homes from different regions of the United States. Researchers started by looking at the homes’ websites for pricing information. If prices were not disclosed on its website, the researches emailed and then phoned the funeral home. The survey found that only 38 (25 percent) of the 150 funeral homes surveyed disclosed their prices on their website and 24 (16 percent) failed to disclose pricing on their website or in response to an email and a phone call.

At the same time that the survey showed how difficult it can be to get pricing information, it also demonstrated how important it is for consumers to be able to shop around. The researchers priced three different funeral options: direct cremation without burial, immediate burial without ceremony or cost of casket, and a full-service funeral. The survey found that prices among funeral homes in the same region varied by as much as 200 percent. For example, in Atlanta the cost of a full-service funeral could be as low as $3,370 at one funeral home and as high as $11,050 at another.

The FCA and CFA are asking the Federal Trade Commission to update its Funeral Rule, which currently requires funeral homes to give consumers price information over the phone or a price list to people who visit the home, to require disclosure of prices on websites.

To read about the survey, click here.

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What Is Undue Influence?

Saying that there has been “undue influence” is often used as a reason to contest a will or estate plan, but what does it mean?

Undue influence occurs when someone exerts pressure on an individual, causing that individual to act contrary to his or her wishes and to the benefit of the influencer or the influencer’s friends. The pressure can take the form of deception, harassment, threats, or isolation. Often the influencer separates the individual from their loved ones in order to coerce. The elderly and infirm are usually more susceptible to undue influence.

To prove a loved one was subject to undue influence in drafting an estate plan, you have to show that the loved one disposed of his or her property in a way that was unexpected under the circumstances, that he or she is susceptible to undue influence (because of illness, age, frailty, or a special relationship with the influencer), and that the person who exerted the influence had the opportunity to do so. Generally, the burden of proving undue influence is on the person asserting undue influence. However, if the alleged influencer had a fiduciary relationship with your loved one, the burden may be on the influencer to prove that there was no undue influence. People who have a fiduciary relationship can include a child, a spouse, or an agent under a power of attorney. For more information on contesting a will, go here.

When drawing up a will or estate plan, it is important to avoid even the appearance of undue influence. For example, if you are planning on leaving everything to your daughter who is also your primary caregiver, your other children may argue that your daughter took advantage of her position to influence you. To avoid the appearance of undue influence, do not involve any family members who are inheriting under your will in drafting your will. Family members should not be present when you discuss the will with your attorney or when you sign it. To be totally safe, family members shouldn’t even drive or accompany you to the attorney’s office. You can also get a formal assessment of your mental capabilities done by a medical professional before you draft estate planning documents. For more information on preventing a will contest, go here.

July 14, 2016

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