FUNERAL RESOURCES

Some of the things you can do today like Joining a non-profit memorial society

The memorial society Clark joined gave him access to group buying power to get a great deal on cremation or burial. Being a member will cut the costs of your disposition by about 75%.

You simply pay a lifetime fee of around $25-$35 that varies by state. The memorial society will then contact a funeral home to pre-plan arrangements at a low price. Be sure to tell your loved ones you’ve joined and give them access to the paperwork so they know how to proceed when the time comes.

There is an alternative, which is to pay in advance for burial arrangements. But Clark is against this option. Many years ago, The Washington Post reported on a cemetery in Maryland that catered to pre-need clients. But the operator stole the money—instead of putting it in escrow—and then sold the operation and moved to Florida. The new owners didn’t know anything about the existing customers and couldn’t honor their contracts when they did pass away. So the families had to pay a second time.

That’s exactly why Clark advises you not to pay in advance, but rather to just plan in advance. Funerals.org is one site where you can get a referral to join your local chapter of a memorial society.

Nearly a dozen states don’t have access to non-profit memorial society

There are non-profit memorial societies serving every state except for a small handful — Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, West Virginia and Wyoming.

What can you do if you live in one of those states? Funerals.org suggests you explore starting a group yourself or you can contact them for other options.

Many homes have gone through roll-ups and been bought out by huge national chains. But the homes will still retain the old family-operated names. Unfortunately, economies of scale do not apply here. In fact, national chains come in and raise the rates astronomically.

What can you do if you haven’t done any planning and you’re in sudden need of a funeral home? You’ve got to try to do some comparison shopping (as hard as that may be at the time) and find a locally owned and operated funeral home. That should run you about half to two-thirds off the cost of the giant monster mega-chains. Remember, you can’t tell from the name outside, so you must ask.


New online funeral shopping site launches


Shopping for a funeral online could become commonplace if two entrepreneurs have their way.

Cleveland residents Mike Belsito and Bryan Chaikin have launched an online funeral planning service called eFuneral.com. This free service is just kicking off in the Midwest, but hopefully will takes flight across the country.

What Mike and Bryan offer are price quotes on both burials and cremations that reflect significant discounts along with consumer reviews of funeral homes. In essence, their site is able to put funeral homes in competition with each other, and a fee is charged to the funeral homes for every client generated by the service.

eFuneral has been called the “Angie’s list of funeral homes” in The Plain Dealer because the idea is not just that you’re buying price, you’re also buying reviews and quality from the winning bidder knowing they will handle both you and your loved one in a respectful manner.

I know that it may seem unsavory to talk about expense at the time of the loss of a loved one. But it’s the reality that the price difference from one funeral home to another can make all the difference in the world about what kind of ongoing financial burden the survivors have.

I have long talked about Funerals.org as a way to use collective buying power to get reduced rates on funeral expenses via a local non-profit memorial society. But the idea for eFuneral.com came when Mike was tasked by his family with making sudden funeral arrangements for a cousin. He was stunned with how having to get it done at the last minute wound up being so expensive.

The story of Mike and Brian is a perfect example of people who saw a market opportunity and came up with a solution. I hope this service helps people and makes them money.