In keeping with their long-standing tradition of caring, funeral directors remain dedicated to helping families cope with end-of-life matters with quiet professionalism and attention to detail. They undergo a rigorous regimen of college-level study in mortuary arts and sciences, and funeral service. Before being licensed by the New York State Department of Health to operate as a funeral director, the aspiring funeral director must pass examinations on funeral directing and the laws, rules and regulations governing funeral directing.
As with many other suppliers of consumer goods and services, the funeral industry is subject to both Federal and State laws. One important regulation to protect consumers is the Federal Trade Commission's Funeral Rule which requires funeral homes to make available a general price list which details the cost of all funeral products and services being considered. Unfortunately, this requirement does not now extend to other providers of funeral goods and/or services such as casket stores, cemeteries and companies selling on the Internet. However, the rule may soon be amended to include these other providers in giving consumers useful information and the appropriate protection, no matter where or how consumers purchase funeral products.
Thanks to legislation passed in New York State in 1993, all funds paid in advance for a funeral must be deposited in an investment backed by the United States government such as FDIC insured certificates of deposit (or a New York State bank). Account statements showing interest earned must be reported annually to the consumer, or within 30 days after the consumer's request. All funds are completely portable to any funeral home anywhere at any time; all funds must be repaid to the consumer upon their request (with the exception of Medicaid recipients). The law also requires that there be no commission, fee or other monetary consideration of any kind paid to a funeral firm or funeral director as a result of where the consumer's dollars are placed in trust.
Although preneed insurance which would allow funeral firms to be named as beneficiaries of dedicated preneed life insurance policies exists in some other states, New York State does not allow this form of payment for funerals -- and for good reason. This type of insurance is usually expensive; does not keep pace with inflation and has few if any protections for consumers' money. For instance, if the purchaser stops paying premiums for preneed insurance, they lose all benefits.
Even though arranging a funeral occurs at a stressful time, the wise consumer should remember to ask questions. Funeral directors expect questions, and are always ready to consult with families as partners to ensure a dignified and appropriate remembrance of a loved one's life.
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