6 tips for financing a funeral

Planning a funeral on the heels of a loved one's passing -- especially when the loss is unexpected -- is one of the toughest things you can go through. Despite the time crunch and emotional upset, there are steps you can take to control your costs, including:

Step 1: Discuss the wishes of the deceased. If the deceased wrote down or discussed his or her wishes, you've got some type of guidelines for planning the funeral. Talk with members of your immediate family about these wishes to make sure everyone is on the same page before you contact a funeral home.

Step 2: Develop a consensus. If the deceased left no express wishes, and no family members or friends have a clue as to what he or she would have wanted, develop a consensus among family members as to whether the deceased will be buried or cremated, what type of service will be held and when those events will take place. When emotions are running high, family disagreement is common and can lead to bloated costs. Make some notes of your conversations so that you can refer to them when speaking to funeral home representatives.

Step 3: Comparison shop. This is one of the most difficult tasks to handle after bereavement, but if you don't do it, you'll regret it later. It can be helpful to enlist a close family friend to help with phone calls or checking prices on the Internet. For a subscription fee, you can compare prices at up to eight funeral homes in your area at Everest Concierge Services' website. Many online vendors offer caskets, urns and headstones at half the cost of funeral home prices and will deliver overnight.

Step 4: Get outside advice, help. Companies are available to deliver expert advice and help with planning. Everest Concierge Services will handle the entire planning process for $495, negotiating with funeral homes in your area and making sure your wishes are fulfilled. TributeDirect provides phone counseling, a booklet and an online planning tool for $99.

Step 5: Ask for a price list. If you visit a funeral home to either initially discuss prices and planning or to finalize arrangements, be sure to ask for their general price list. This lists all the prices of the various options so you can see what is available. Bring a friend or another relative so you can have another opinion and don't sign anything immediately, if you can avoid it.

Step 6: Negotiate. This is another tough one, but it pays off. Sam Jernigan, a widow, decided to skip a church or chapel service and hold one service at the graveside, saving $500. She also negotiated away the $100 fee the funeral home was going to charge for an awning at the graveside service and decided not to pay to have her husband embalmed, saving another $500. If you can't bring yourself to negotiate, maybe another relative or close friend can do it for you.

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Updated: 03-24-2019