|Regulations set by the Federal Trade Commission are designed to ensure fair practices from funeral providers. But every so often, the FTC makes a sweep of funeral homes and finds violations of the Funeral Rule — a set of guidelines that these businesses are required to follow. So, as always, caveat emptor. Here are some of the key provisions along with state and local laws.
1. A funeral home must give price information over the phone as well as its available services.
2. A funeral home must, when you visit in person, supply you with a price and options list.
3. Embalming is not required by law, except in some special cases. It may not take place without your authorization.
4. Cash advance sales. These are goods or services that the funeral home pays for up front on your behalf (things like flowers, obit notices, pallbearers). In NY, it is not permissible to charge more than the actual amounts for these services.
5. Cremation. When direct cremation is desired (no viewing of the body), no casket is required, and an unfinished wood box or alternative container are options you may choose.
6. If you buy a casket elsewhere, the funeral provider may not refuse, or charge a fee, to handle it.
7. Required Purchases. You have the right to choose only those goods and services you desire; where the law requires you to make a purchase, the funeral provider must disclose this on the Statement of Goods and Services, citing the specific law. The funeral provider must you give you a written, itemized statement (with complete costs) of the good and services. A "presentation sheet" must be made available describing all goods and services.
You can go for a death certificate to the city's Office of Vital Records, 125 Worth [Centre/Lafayette] weekdays from 9-4:30. It's $15 and the certificate will be mailed to you within two weeks. For how to apply by mail, click here. To download the application, click here.
Preplanning and prepaying your funeral can make good sense. With the former, you're making the funeral arrangements ahead of time; with the latter, you're also paying the bill up front. Taking care of this can bring piece of mind, but it's important to know exactly what kind of protection you are and are not getting. The NY State Dept. of Health has a helpful guide, which you can download here.
Caring Connections has information on "Advance Directives"—a health care proxy (authorizing someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated) and a Living Will, which allows you to express your wishes if you become incapacitated by an irreversible condition.
Americans for Better Care of the Dying
Beyond Indigo (a source of information on grief, death and dying)
Compassionate Friends (grief support after the death of a child)
FTC's Funerals: A Consumers Guide
Death: A Salon Special Issue
Growth House (resources for end-of-life care)
Hospice Foundation of America
National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
NY Funerals (an all-volunteer, non-profit organization dedicated to helping New Yorkers make funeral arrangements that are "dignified, meaningful, and affordable.")
A Consumer's Guide To Arranging a Funeral (from NY State's Dept. of Health)
Organ and Tissue Donation
Today on Wish You Were Here:
skint - adj. british slang (1930-35)
lacking funds, broke, bust, stone-broke, impecunious
Around town this weekend, courtesy of the skint: a daily listing of free and cheap things to buy, see, do and eat in New York.
fri + sat 8pm: essential ny choreographer tere o'connor creates a different kind of solo for riverdance's jean butler. danspace project, $18.
fri-sun: save 30% off gap, banana republic and old navy (printable coupon)
sat + sun 10am-6pm: the pier antiques show features 500 exhibitors selling furniture, art, fashion, more. plus, appraisals from gary sohmers of pbs's antiques roadshow. pier 94 (12th ave. @ 55th st.), $15.
sat+sun: is that a wand in your pants or are you just happy to see me? muggles spectate free at the harry potter-inspired quidditch world cup at dewitt clinton park. (website is down this morning)
sun 12-7pm: beta spaces = one-day festival featuring the work of 400+ artists in galleries, mobile trucks and smartphone apps. bushwick, free.