Probate and Planning
Planning a Funeral
How Should I Plan My Funeral?
Under Minnesota law, you may include directions regarding your funeral and burial in your will or in a special document you sign for that purpose. You may appoint a person who has authority to make arrangements after your death. Some things to keep in mind when planning a funeral:
- Your budget and true desires should guide your choice of arrangements. You generally have the option of choosing cremation, burial in a cemetery plot, or burial in a mausoleum; and
- You may wish to involve several members of your family, close friends, and/or clergy members when you make funeral arrangements.
Minnesota law and the Federal Funeral Rule give you tools to control the cost of funerals. When you request funeral information, these laws require funeral directors to provide detailed, pre-purchase price information, including a “General Price List” of all services offered that lists an effective date. Following the funeral arrangement, a detailed itemization, called the “Statement of Funeral Goods and Services Selected,” must be prepared.
There are many laws in place that protect consumers from deceptive practices by the funeral industry. For example, a funeral provider cannot require that you purchase a casket for cremation. A funeral provider cannot condition the purchase of one funeral service upon the purchase of another funeral good or service. Further, it is against the law for funeral providers to charge a fee for handling, placing, or setting a funeral good based upon the fact that the good was not purchased from that funeral provider.
How Should I Pay for My Funeral?
You can make your own funeral arrangements before you die. You may set aside funds to pay for your funeral. One way to do this is to invest the needed amount of money or put it in a bank account, making sure it will be accessible to family members upon your death. A second option is to prepay for funeral goods and services.
What Safeguards Exist for Consumers Who Pay for Their Funerals in Advance?
To help safeguard prepaid funds, Minnesota law requires a funeral director or cemetery operator to place all prepaid funds in a trust account in a bank or other financial institution until the need for your funeral arises and to advise you of the financial institution’s name and the trust account number. They must also annually report to you the amount of funds in your account. Minnesota law allows you to make arrangements so that you can receive a full refund of all prepaid funds at any time before services are provided.
There are also safeguards in the law to ensure that funds are available for the long-term upkeep of cemeteries and mausoleums. Certain cemetery operators must place in trust 20 percent of funds received from the sale of cemetery lots and 10 percent of funds from the sale of mausoleum space. These “permanent care and improvement” trust accounts are to ensure the future care and maintenance of cemetery grounds and buildings.
Finally, the law requires annual reporting and record keeping for both “pre-need” and the “permanent care and improvement” trust funds:
- Licensed funeral directors must file an annual report disclosing the status of the pre-need trust fund with the State Commissioner of Health;
- Cemetery operators must file an annual report disclosing the status of the permanent care and improvement trust fund with their County Auditor; and
- The Minnesota Department of Health, Mortuary Science Section offers information and takes complaints on funeral goods and services. They can be reached at (651) 201-3829.