Digging Deep - a guide to cemetery and burial law from the Office of the Vermont Secretary of State.
Funeral costs include the basic services of the funeral director and staff. This includes funeral planning, getting necessary permits and the death certificate, sheltering the remains until the burial or cremation is completed, and coordinating with the cemetery, crematory, or other third parties.
Additional services include transporting the remains, embalming, use of the funeral home for viewing or a memorial service, graveside service, use of a limousine, a casket, grave liner (a container that either covers the top and sides of the casket or completely encloses the casket), and cremation or burial. These additional services can vary in price among funeral homes and not all of the services are required by Vermont law.
For example, Vermont state law does not require embalming, but if there is going to be a viewing or a time delay for the burial, the funeral home will probably require it. A grave liner is also not required by Vermont law, but a cemetery may require it. A viewing, memorial service, graveside service, or use of a limousine is not required by Vermont state law.
There may also be cash advance charges for goods and services the funeral home buys for you from outside vendors – such as flowers, obituary notices, pallbearers, clergy, and musicians. These services also can vary in price and are optional.
Since there are choices about the services you can purchase, be sure the funeral provider clearly explains all options. Make it clear to the provider which options you want or do not want. Many funeral providers offer a variety of packages that include certain goods and services. These packages might include services you do not want. You are not required to accept a package deal, and instead can buy only the individual goods and services you choose.
You also can purchase products and services from different businesses. For example, you can buy a casket from one source and then arrange the funeral service through another. A funeral home cannot charge a handling fee if you buy the casket from another source. It is worth the effort to compare services and prices, and choose the business with which you feel most confident and comfortable.
Arranging funeral services can be emotionally trying and difficult. You may feel pressure to pay more than you want to, or can afford. The Funeral Rule, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, requires funeral directors to give you, in person or over the phone, an itemized price list of their services and all products they offer.
If a funeral home does not show you lower-priced items, such as a simple casket, you may want to ask to be shown these. If they do not have what you want, you can contact another provider. You can read more about funerals on the Federal Trade Commission’s website.
Funeral expenses can range anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 or more, depending on the choices you make. A cremation with no viewing at a funeral home and no burial will be less expensive than a funeral with the full range of services. Also, a direct burial (described in the cemetery burial pages) can be less expensive.
Funds may be available for final disposition through the Vermont Department for Children and Families, Economic Services Division, for persons who qualify.
The funeral industry is governed by laws defining professional conduct. Consumers who have inquiries or wish to obtain a form to register a complaint may do so by calling 1-802-282-2367, or by writing to the Secretary of State at 109 State Street, Montpelier, VT 05609-1106.
Military Funeral Benefits
Active military personnel, veterans, and their spouses and dependent children are entitled to a free burial, grave liner, grave marker, and perpetual care in a national cemetery. There is no charge for opening and closing the grave, or for setting the marker in a national cemetery. In addition, active military personnel and veterans are eligible for burial at sea, or for a grave marker in any cemetery in the world.
These benefits are also available to some civilians who provided military-related service and to some U.S. Public Health Service personnel. For more information contact the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Cemetery Administration.
Contact the Vermont Office of Veteran's Affairs for information on benefits for veterans and their families.