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New Jersey Beefs up Cemetery Trusting - 2009

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11/23/2009 — Kudos to the New Jersey State Funeral Directors Association for their work tightening protections consumers enjoy when prepaying for cemetery services. They succesfully pushed for a bill that would require cemeteries to deposit 100 percent of any money a consumer spends on cemetery services, such as opening/closing the grave, or the crematory fee. Consumers may also transfer that money to a new cemetery if they change their minds or move. NOTE - if you prepay for a grave or niche, the cemetery does not have to refund your money if you change your mind.
From a press release by NJSFDA:

Last Updated ( Monday, 23 November 2009 15:30 ) Read more...

Mausoleum Sued for Propping Open Caskets

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Mausoleums are marketed as a "clean and dry" alternative to burial. In reality, gases and fluids can build up (especially in so-called "sealer" caskets), leading sometimes to  leaks or even explosions that breach the crypt. Understandably, mausoleum owners would prefer caskets be vented so the remains dehydrate. Families-whose fears are exploited and stoked by businesses that sell them a bill of goods about "clean and dry" burial products - want their dead "safely" sealed up.


Colorado Passes Mixed Up Funeral Laws

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Colorado's HB 1202 was signed into law by the governor in summer, 2009. (See our earlier post about this troubling bill). While the final version did amend some of the most troubling provisions, the law remains murky and contradictory. The rights of families to care for their own dead without hiring commercial funeral homes are preserved. In addition, nonprofit organizations that educate and support families who choose home funerals are exempt from state oversight. But as always, the devil is in the details. . .

The Good:

  • Nonprofit organizations—such as FCA's chapter in Colorado, or Natural Transitions, a group that supports families who direct their own funerals—are exempt from registering with the state. This preserves their right to educate the public on how to prepare and care for their own dead privately.
  • People who merely sell funeral goods, such as caskets and urns, aren't required to undertake onerous and irrelevant mortuary training.

The Bad:

  • Sloppy grammar leads to confusion. The law says that "a person" can't "offer the services of" a "mortuary science practitioner" or "funeral director" unless that person is working out of a registered funeral establishment. But the next sentence says "Nor shall the funeral establishment sell or offer to sell funeral goods or funeral services to the public." So, what's being regulated - people or "establishments?"
  • Even worse, the definition of "mortuary science practitioner" (remember, this is a category that requires registration and onerous training under the law) includes anyone who "arranges, directs, or supervises funerals, memorial services, or graveside services." Will your preacher be cited for illegally acting as a "mortuary science practitioner?" Will a secular celebrant be charged with illegal practice for renting a room, planning a buffet, and delivering a eulogy?

The Baffling — Colorado now has the most draconian training and apprenticeship standards for funeral workers of any state. Contrary to the claims of industry trade groups, these aren't just requirements that apply to people who "represent themselves" as "having certain professional titles." The law states that no one can offer the services of any of these professional designations without registering with the state, and the clear implication is that anyone who actually performs these services has to meet these ridiculously high standards:

  • Anyone who calls himself a "mortuary science practioner" has to have at least 2,000 hours (50 weeks) practicing or interning, and has to have graduated from a mortuary school (a dubious achievement, given their low standards).
  • Anyone who calls himself a funeral director must have 2,000 hours of practice or interning, and have directed 50 funerals or graveside services.
  • Anyone who calls himself an embalmer must have spent 4,000 hours (almost two years!) interning, on at least 50 bodies.
  • Anyone who calls himself a "cremationist" must have cremated at least 50 bodies. Um, we're sorry to sound crude, but cremating dead people is not rocket science, and it should not take 50 attempts to learn how to turn on the crematory and pulverize the remains to return them to the family.
Last Updated ( Friday, 15 January 2010 13:25 )

Wal-Mart Enters Casket Business

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Following Costco's lead, Wal-Mart is now selling caskets to the general public. Reuters reports:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc is now catering to its shoppers' needs from cradle to grave.The world's largest retailer has introduced online sales of caskets, expanding a merchandise selection that spans engagement rings and baby gear to a new major milestone in its shoppers' lives.

Shoppers can choose from the Lady de Guadalupe steel casket for $895 or a sienna bronze casket for $2, spokesman Ravi Jariwala said it is selling the products as a "limited beta test" that launched within the last few weeks.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 11 November 2009 22:52 )

AARP Bulletin Features FCA; Smart Advice

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October 5, 2009 --- AARP Bulletin tells the stories of several families with out-of-control funeral costs, and how you can avoid getting taken to the cleaners when you buy a final send-off. The article has good information on home funerals (DIY, no mortuary involved) and green burial, too. Excerpts:

"After her husband of 35 years died unexpectedly while working in Louisiana, Beckey Poplin of Lubbock, Texas, needed to use insurance proceeds to pay a local funeral home more than $16,000. She told local TV station KCBD that she wasn’t given a price quote before receiving the final bill, didn’t know how to read the contract and wasn’t sure what was included. Asked why she hadn’t requested a price estimate, she told the station, “You don’t do that at that time. You don’t really care. You have other issues to deal with.”

. . .
There is a way to avoid pressure tactics and indecision at the funeral home, according to the Funeral Consumers Alliance. It advises families to discuss funeral plans in advance, much like they would if they were planning a wedding, a home purchase or making a major life decision. Avoiding the topic will make the funeral more difficult, and likely more expensive, for survivors."

Last Updated ( Monday, 02 November 2009 17:55 )

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