4. Exercise caution if pre-planning your own funeral.
Planning a funeral and paying in advance for services and a cemetery plot is a thoughtful way to help a family through the difficult time of a loved one's death. However, many cases have surfaced in recent years in which millions of dollars of prepaid money was stolen by unethical business owners. Caution is advised when considering prepayment.
Slocum, the consumer advocate, recommends planning ahead but keeping the money in a family bank account. It should be set up so it's payable on death to the family member who will be in charge of arrangements.
It's important to have a conversation with family members about your wishes, the plans you've made and information about the account set up for payment.
Comparable consumer protections are in place for pre-need customers. Funeral directors must provide a price list and are prohibited from offering only package funerals.
It's a good idea to discuss any preplanning contract with an attorney or financial planner before signing.
5. Seek help if a funeral or costs were not right.
For consumers who run into problems there are a few avenues for redress.
If you have a problem with funeral arrangements that cannot be resolved with the funeral director, see the Funeral Consumers Alliance advice on how to file a complaint at: http://tinyurl.com/25b7nek.
The National Funeral Directors Association has a help line at 800-228-6332.
What's more, all states but Colorado and Hawaii have a funeral board or agency that regulates funeral directors. Complaints may be directed to them. State attorneys general have consumer affairs divisions that also could help. Find your state attorney general's office at http://www.naag.org.
If local assistance isn't working, a complaint can be filed with the FTC. Visit www.ftc.gov or call 1-877-382-4357.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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