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5 Tips for Planning a Funeral

A cautionary note about buying caskets or funeral supplies from an online vendor: Make sure the casket can be delivered to the funeral home on time, said James Olson, funeral director at the Lippert-Olson Funeral Home in Sheboygan, Wis. Although funeral homes must comply with the FTC rules, it's important to know that online vendors and cemeteries do not, said Olson, who also is a spokesman for the National Funeral Directors Association, a trade group.

That could soon change, however.

A bill, sponsored by Rep. Bobby Rush, an Illinois Democrat, would require the FTC to regulate other funeral services vendors including cemeteries.

A congressional committee on Wednesday approved the bill, which goes to the full House for consideration.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when shopping for funeral services, whether you're planning for yourself or arranging the funeral of a loved one.

1. Know your consumer rights.

Anyone who walks into a funeral home and inquires must be given a general price list. Customers must be allowed to take this list home to consider the costs.

If you shop by telephone, funeral directors are required to provide price information to callers.

Funeral homes often offer packages, but consumers have the right to choose only the separate goods and services they want. Sometimes packages cost less than their individual components. If you're comparing one funeral home to another, make sure the packages include the same set of services.

The FTC outlines the funeral rule and provides more guidance here: http://tiny.cc/5ort5.

The national funeral directors trade group offers a consumers bill of rights at: http://tinyurl.com/25cbmge.

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