There's truth to the old joke about death and taxes. You can't escape either, but you probably try to think about them as little as possible. Besides the fear of death, there's often the fear the funeral will leave big bills behind.
But, you can plan and keep costs under control.
You may meticulously plan vacations, Christmas, buying a car but never plan for something we all experience: death.
"It's one of those things in life that people really do not ever want to deal with. I've been a funeral director fifteen years, and it's hard for me to come to terms with my own family passing away. None of us want to go into a funeral home but everyone will have to at some point."
Hillary Adair is the funeral director at Desert Sunset Funeral Home. Paul Neville is the funeral director at Brings Broadway Chapel. Both have been leaders in the Arizona Funeral, Cemetery and Cremation Association.
He says, "So often you have families or the person, the elderly person if they're elderly that they don't want anything. They want to play what we call the hero at the very end just don't spend any money on me, and it doesn't have to be so much about money as an opportunity to celebrate that person's life."
Both directors wish families would work out what everyone wants long before someone has died and there are grief and confusion on top of pressure to satisfy everyone's wishes.
Expenses can be a delicate issue.
Adair says, “In my experience, I find at the end of my arrangement time with the family as they're leaving they say to me, 'wow, that was not as much as I thought it was because nationally in Arizona we are very low on the spectrum of our prices for cremation. In some states, cremation can be upwards of four or five thousand dollars. So here in Arizona where it's one to two thousand that's not a lot for everything that goes into it."
The funeral directors say in Arizona about three-quarters of families choose cremation. More elaborate arrangements with embalming, caskets, multiple services, hearses, and burial might reach ten thousand dollars.
The Funeral industry falls under Federal and state consumer protection laws. To avoid surprise charges, funeral homes must give families a list that spells out every cost they could encounter.
You can even bring your own casket, ordered from retailers like Costco or Amazon and while families are free to comparison shop, a nearby funeral home, convenient to family and friends may carry more weight.
Paul Neville says, “You do have consumers that do literally get in the telephone when the death has just happened or is about ready to happen, and they're going to shop, and ten or twenty dollars sometimes makes a difference where they're going to send their loved one."
Hillary Adair: "Sometimes even at two or three in the morning."
Paul Neville: "Oh yes."
Hillary: “So it is difficult when people don't intend to be consumers of this industry, and then it's three o'clock in the morning, and the death's occurred, and they have to start calling funeral homes."
Pre-planning may lead families to buy a plan that locks in costs well ahead of time. Some funeral homes used that money, so it wasn't there when a family needed it. For safety, Arizona law requires licensed insurance companies to handle those plans. The funeral home may introduce you to an agent, but the home does not control the money.