Pre-planning for a funeral will help you avoid schemes and save you money

It's something none of us want to think about, but pre-planning a funeral will help you avoid schemes, save you money and reduce stress.

"Unfortunately, scams do happen in the funeral industry," says Angie Hicks of Angie's List .  "And it's unfortunate because it's a time when consumers are very stressed and very emotional, but they need to be good shoppers too."

One of the first things to do is talk to your family members about what they want; a simple or elaborate funeral, a traditional burial or cremation.

"What I often see is people spend far too much money trying to have a marvelous funeral or the best casket.  And in many cases, that's not really what the deceased person would have wanted at all," says Kathleen Hartman, a certified financial planner .

Once you have an idea of what type of funeral a family member wants, it's time to meet with a funeral director .  This is a good time to call around and see what type of services are offered and how much they will cost.

""Many consumers will go to the same funeral home that their family has gone too because they have experience and they know what to expect. But funerals are expensive so it is good to shop around to make sure you are getting the best price possible," says Hicks.

And when you do meet with a funeral director, keep an open mind.

"A lot of consumers are unaware with of the different options that have evolved over time," says funeral home employee Barbara Milton.  "So they might come in with a concept that they want ground burial or they want cremation that helps a professional to be able to guide them in the right products and the right placement for them."

The average cost of a funeral runs around $6,600.  With services costing so much, many people are looking at pre-payment options.  But be careful.  You need to ask a lot of questions like what happens if you want to transfer the money to another funeral home or what happens if the funeral home you select goes out of business.  Right now, only a handful of states have funds that step in and protect consumers when funds are stolen or the funeral service goes out of business.  Maryland has no such fund set up.

"I think an easier and more flexible thing would be to put the money the money in a checking or savings account and simply add what's called a POD it stands for payable on death designation," says Hartman.

Your bank or credit union will have you fill out a form and have it paid to the person who will take care of the arrangements.

And if you do run into problems with the funeral home you select, try to resolve it first with the funeral director.  If you are still having issues, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

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