This morning, TMZ.com released a story about two things that rarely get mentioned in the same sentence: Rihanna and funerals. Here’s the story: the funeral home that planned Rihanna’s grandmother’s funeral charged Rihanna $150,000 for the funeral, which the superstar singer is refusing to pay. Rihanna claims that she’ll happily pay one-quarter of the amount, but that she didn’t approve the remaining $112,500. The funeral home is suing her for the full amount.
Although celebrity gossip attracts our attention, there’s more to this story than just a big name. Many people reading this story might wonder, “Could this happen to me? If I plan a funeral, will I unwittingly get stuck with an exorbitant bill?” The answer, briefly, is “no.” And, if you follow my advice, the answer will be “absolutely not.”
1. Know Your Rights
In 1984, following public scrutiny of the funeral industry, The Federal Trade Commission established a law known as the Funeral Rule. The goal of this law was to dictate certain procedures that funeral homes have to follow so that consumers are protected from coercion, unwanted charges and purchases, and fraud. A key provision in the Funeral Rule is that funeral homes have to provide consumers with a detailed price list before starting any conversation about funeral planning. So know that the funeral home is legally obligated to provide you with a General Price List (GPL) that breaks down all the costs of the funeral. The GPL must cover every item that will appear on your bill. If the funeral director you’re talking with doesn’t give this to you, ask for it! It’s your right.
2. Bring an Advocate
Planning a funeral is emotional. But it’s also a big-ticket purchase, so you want to be on the ball. Bring someone with you to hear details that you might miss, help you make rational decisions, and advocate for you on your behalf.
3. Check the Bill
Funeral directors would rather get paid than sued. They will want your signature on any agreements before they begin to make the funeral. So take the time to review the paperwork and be sure it is to your satisfaction before you sign anything. If there's anything on the bill that you don't want, be sure to bring it up with the funeral director before you sign the contract.