Making Funeral Plans

After a home and a car, a funeral may be your most expensive purchase. Funeral arrangements are often made when people are grieving and under time constraints. Thinking ahead may help your loved ones as you choose the items you want and need. Planning your funeral also allows you to compare prices.

Some of the most frequently asked questions about making funeral plans are:

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Making plans in advance lets you choose among several types of ceremonies and dispositions, although your choice affects the cost. For instance, you can have a ceremony with or without the body present, a burial, a cremation, or you can donate your body to a medical institution, any of which can be done before or after a ceremony.

You can donate your body to many places. In Utah, you can donate it to the medical school of the University of Utah. For information on donating your body to the University of Utah, see http://www.neuro.utah.edu/related_links/bodydonor/faq.html or call (801) 581-6728.

You can find out the cost of funeral arrangements over the telephone. If you inquire in person, request a written price list of the goods and services available. The price list tells you your rights, gives information on embalming, cash in advance items, and any purchases required by law. State law does require some things to be done in the disposition of a body. Except for what the law requires, you do not have to purchase anything you do not want.

Embalming is not required if a body is kept refrigerated until burial, or is buried, cremated, or donated for medical research within 24 hours of death. Embalming is required if you want a viewing. You can choose direct cremation or immediate burial if you do not want embalming. "Direct" means without viewing or ceremony.

Cremation is lawful in Utah. A container for the body is required, but it can be any combustible material (it does not have to be wood). You can choose direct cremation or immediate burial if you do not want embalming. "Direct" means without viewing or ceremony.

A burial vault is a box that encases the entire casket. It generally comes with a warranty. It protects the casket and keeps the ground around it solid. It prevents the ground from caving in once it has settled. It will not prevent the decay of your remains, however. Vaults are not required by law, but many cemeteries require them in addition to a casket.

Money can be set aside for funeral expenses or invested in a funeral plan.  An overall advantage in having a plan is that the cost of burial will be "locked in" at a specified price, irrespective of any future cost increases. There are two ways to pay for funeral costs:

      1. Revocable:   You deposit your money with a funeral home with the agreement that you can withdraw the funds prior to your death, if you choose to.
          • Advantage:  If you move to another state, you can move your funeral plan as well.
          • Disadvantage:  If you do withdraw the funds, you may lose up to 25% of what you deposited plus the costs of the paperwork.  You will receive interest earned on your money.
      2. Irrevocable:  You deposit your money with a funeral home with the agreement that no early withdrawal can be made.  The funds can be spent only for your funeral. 
          • Advantage:  This arrangement ensures that the money will remain set aside for funeral expenses. 
          • Disadvantage:  If the payment is irrevocably made to a Salt Lake funeral home and you move to another state, the funeral plan stays here.  If the mortuary goes out of business, there is a risk that your funeral plan may not be honored. 

According to Utah law, all prepaid funds must be placed into an interest-bearing trust, and any funds not used for funeral costs go to the estate of the deceased. (See Utah Code § 58-9-702 through § 58-9-705)

As an alternative to purchasing a funeral plan, a deposit to a bank or credit union or other financial institution can be made payable to any funeral home by depositing the money into an interest-bearing account with a written declaration that the account is for your funeral, or P.O.D. (Payable on Death) to the funeral home.  This won’t lock in any prices at the funeral home, but does give you more control of the funds you set aside.

The information in this site is not intended as legal advice.
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