At-Need Funeral Goods and Services Contracts: What You Need to Know

When a death occurs, there are many aspects of preparing for services and final disposition. Once all the decisions have been made, arrangements must be made for payment. Regardless if the funeral was pre-funded, covered by insurance, financed, or paid at the time of service; a funeral service contract must be completed.

A funeral goods and services contract is basically an itemized list of all cost associated with the services you have chosen and payment details and information. Each individual state has its own requirements that the funeral provider must follow, however the basics are the same across the board.

There are three basic parts to the itemized portion of the contract; services, merchandise and cash advanced items. Breaking down these sections may seem complicated at first, but most contracts are put together very straightforward and easy to understand.

The Services Section of the Funeral Contract

The services section of a funeral contract is exactly that. It is non-tangible services provided by the funeral home. Typically every funeral home has what is called a basic service fee. This is a fee that you are charged regardless of the type of funeral or disposition you choose. This covers all overhead costs that the funeral home or facility incurs during the time of service provided. This is usually the largest individual sum in the list of services. Next, you will see services listed such as embalming or other preparation, facilities and staff for services chosen, transfer costs, vehicles used such as limousines, and hearses, and crematory charges if applicable.

The Merchandise Section of the Funeral Contract

The merchandise portion of the funeral contract will list exactly what funeral goods that you selected. This can include caskets, urns, memorial items, vaults or outer burial containers, and any other item purchased through the funeral provider. Your funeral director should fill in all information correctly and include descriptions of each item purchased. Keep in mind that all merchandise purchased will be subject to state sales tax and that will be applied on a separate line in the contract.

What are Cash Advances?

The last main section of the contract is cash advanced items. These are typically purchased through a third party and must be paid up front. Some examples are memorial DVDs made using an outside company, gravediggers who require payment up front for service provided or obituaries that may not print unless payment is made in advance. Other examples include musicians, hairdressers, death certificates, and permits.

Finalizing the Funeral Contract

There are a few remaining details that you should be aware of when completing the funeral service contract with your funeral director.

  • Signing this contract will make you legally and financially responsible for all goods and services listed, so you need to make sure that all information is complete and accurate.
  • Take a few minutes to read the contract details or the fine print. Just like any other contract, you want to be completely informed about what you are signing.
  • Make certain that you fully understand all payment information.
  • Ask any questions that you are unsure of.

Arranging a funeral can seem like an incredible amount of information in a short period of time. You will be asked hundreds of questions and it is easy to become overwhelmed. Taking the time to review the contract is important and will remind you of all the decisions and purchases you have made, and present you with an opportunity to make any changes. When it comes to any contract, being informed and taking an interest in detail will be your best tool.

Contributor: Gina Davenport

View Additional Pages

Advantages of Paying for Your Funeral in Advance
Pre-need Funeral and Burial Contracts
Funeral Trusts
Funeral Insurance
Prepaying Funeral Providers