Death in One State
Burial in Another
(How to Avoid Double Billing)

Webmaster's note: This pamphlet was prepared by the Funeral and Memorial Societies of America / Funeral Consumers Alliance (FAMSA~FCA) for national distribution. I've including it here as a courtesy to them and to those of you who do not live in the Tampa Bay area. The local Funeral Home that has contracted with The Memorial Society of Tampa Bay has lower prices for every service mentioned in this pamphlet!

In our mobile society, death arrangements often cross state lines. Even though the shipping of cremated remains is far less expensive than body-shipping, cremation is not an option for many families. What are the ways to cut costs when two funeral homes are likely to be involved?

In the case of an anticipated death, visitation in the community of death may not be necessary—the family may have already said its "good-byes." In fact, if all observances can be saved for the state of final disposition, the expenses will be considerably less.

If the body has not yet been picked up—from the hospital or nursing home, for example—the family probably should not call the local society mortuary. Instead, the family should call the receiving mortuary in the other state or location. The family should ask that mortuary to use Inman Nationwide Shipping [1(800)321-0566—this number is for undertakers only; the company will not talk with consumers]. The charge for picking up a body, getting permits and the death certificate, embalming, and delivery to the airport is $575. There may be an additional mileage charge if the Inman agent in your area must travel any great distance. By comparison, the charge for this service is likely to be anywhere from $750 to $2,000+ when approaching a local funeral home directly, although a few small funeral homes may have prices as low as Inman's for "Forwarding Remains." Funeral homes serving as an Inman agent probably do so simply because they aren't busy enough, in spite of the low reimbursement. No doubt they hope the local family will remember which funeral home came to call.

Inman can also arrange for a simple cremation. If there is no memorial society in the area where the death occurred, the folks at 1(800)CREMATE [1(800)273-6283]should be called first. If they have not been able to locate an affordable cremation service, then the receiving funeral home could check with Inman. Funeral homes that post prices to the public of $1,895 for a cremation may be an agent for Inman and agree to do it for only $635—if the call comes through another mortician via Inman.

If the body has already been taken to a funeral home, the family should inquire about the price for "Forwarding Remains," one of the sixteen FTC-required options that must be offered. This will usually include pick-up of the body, the basic service fee, embalming, and possibly a shipping container as well as transportation to the nearest airport (what it covers must be listed on the General Price List). Ironically, this price is often much less than the individual items priced separately! However, if a family doesn't know enough to ask for the price of this option, the mortician is likely to crank up the bill by charging a la carte. One woman would have saved almost $2,000 if she had only known.

There are two kinds of Airtrays or shipping containers: one carries just the body, the other covers and protects a casket. Sometimes this is not included, so it is helpful to know what is reasonable. The wholesale cost of the first one (somewhat more rugged) is $68; the wholesale cost for the other is $49. If the funeral home is going to charge more than $100-150, a family might ask if there is a used one that can be recycled for a reduced cost. Most funeral homes have a few in the garage, and it doesn't hurt to ask—although it's probably what the funeral home would use anyway.

In most areas, it is legal for a family to transport the body. Even if the family were to rent a van, it might be considerably less expensive than airfare, and such a journey may have some very therapeutic value. Most airlines, however, do offer a bereavement rate at a deep discount for people flying to a funeral.

Even if the person you are helping is not a memorial society member, look up the phone number of the memorial society in the other state to find a receiving mortuary. That sort of helps builds good-will. The cooperating mortician in Vermont called the FAMSA office for contact information when shipping a nonmember to New Jersey. He saved the family hundreds of dollars as a result, and that certainly rewards the society mortician on the other end.

Unless there is a need to have visitation and a full funeral service in the state of burial, the family should ask the receiving mortuary for the price of "Receiving Remains"— another one of the FTC-required options. This usually includes picking up the body at the airport, filing permits and the death certificate, and transportation to the cemetery; it might be as low as $450. Cemetery charges will be extra. After getting a price for "Receiving Remains," the family may wish to ask the cost of a "Graveside Service" (usually about $250) if relatives and friends will want to be in attendance. Both of these options should be considerably less than the a la carte prices that would be charged otherwise.

In selecting a casket through either funeral home, the family should specifically avoid a "sealer." An affordable casket would be a 20-gauge steel casket or a cloth covered wood or fiberboard casket. Or the family may wish to call Consumer Casket at 1(800)611-8778. Consumer Casket can ship overnight to any destination. Their cloth covered casket is $328 plus $200 or less for shipping; it comes in pink, blue, taupe, and gray. Their 20-gauge steel is $495 plus a similar shipping charge.

The family should plan to handle the obituary without the help of the funeral director. It is also a good idea to call the cemetery directly to check on prices for opening and closing the grave and whether or not the cemetery sells the grave liner it will probably require. It may cost less through the cemetery. There is no advantage in purchasing an expensive or sealed vault.

Copyright © FAMSA~FCA 1996


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