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Is it a Local Funeral Home?
Over the past several years, the funeral industry has experienced dynamic change. More than twenty percent of the traditional, community-based family-owned funeral firms have been acquired by four large, publicly traded national conglomerates. And many cemeteries, crematories, casket retailers, burial vault sellers and certain religious organizations, which in the past played partial roles in the funeral process, have now expanded, in many cases now offering a full array of funeral services.

In many instances, moreover, cemeteries, crematories, casket retailers and other providers do not fall within existing funeral industry government regulations, including the " The FTC Rule: Part 453 Funeral Industry Practices." Consequently, while these alternative providers may arrange funerals, and sell caskets, urns, outer burial containers and other merchandise, in many cases they do not have to provide consumers with advanced itemized prices for these goods and services. Nor must they make mandatory consumer protection disclosures, such as the fact that caskets are not required for cremation.

It is therefore very important that families seeking funeral services in present times understand the industry landscape, the type of provider they are dealing with, and the scope of funeral goods or services the provider can supply measured against the array of funeral goods and services the family may require.

Cemeteries
Many cemeteries have transformed in recent years from sellers of burial plots to one-stop, full-service funeral providers. Cemeteries now arrange funerals offering ceremonial services both graveside and at on-site chapels, on a pre-need as well as at-need basis. These funeral services are similar to those offered by traditional funeral homes, but may not be covered by the same protective regulations. There are thousands of public, private, military and religious cemeteries in the United States . It is therefore very important that families recognize that currently, cemeteries may not be under the same price and service disclosure regulations as funeral firms. In addition, cemeteries may not be required to make important consumer disclosures, such as the fact that the law in a particular state may not require the purchase of an outer burial container or other cemetery goods or services. Accordingly, families should assure themselves that they understand, request and receive an itemized disclosure of all cemetery charges in advance, whether dealing with the cemetery directly, or making cemetery burial arrangements through a funeral firm. And families dealing directly with a cemetery should also ask whether a particular cemetery good or service is required for burial.

Cremations
In 1999 the cremation rate for the United States was 25%. By comparison, in 1965 less than 4% of the people who died were cremated. It is expected that by 2010, the cremation rate will rise to almost 40%. Not surprisingly, there has been a parallel increase in the number of crematories in the United States , from only 585 in 1980, to 1,256 in 1997, an increase of more than 100% in 17 years. Some crematories offer direct services to families, while others primarily serve funeral firms or other funeral service professionals. And many funeral firms own crematories, or have crematories on their premises. It is important that families considering cremation services explore and consider these various relationships, to ensure the best quality care possible.

Direct Casket Retailers
Many direct casket retailers have emerged in the funeral services market over the past decade as well. These providers typically sell just caskets, but in some cases may offer a broader array of services as well. Most direct casket retailers are currently not subject to price disclosure regulations, and therefore consumers should be certain to obtain a price list for all available casket options they are considering. Also, direct casket retailers in most instances are not required to make important consumer disclosures, like the fact a casket is not required for direct cremation. Consumers dealing with direct casket retailers should always let a direct casket retailer know the type of funeral service they are considering, and ask whether they should even purchase a casket at all. In this regard, there are many services for which a family can rent a casket from a funeral firm, and families should be certain to consider this option when dealing with a direct casket retailer as well. In addition, consumers purchasing a casket from direct casket retailers should understand the liabilities and obligations of the parties in the event of a failure to deliver the casket on time, or delivery of a damaged casket, which could substantially impact a funeral service.

Independent Funeral Homes vs. Corporations
In recent years, there has been a growing and alarming trend toward consolidation in the funeral home industry. Many neighborhood funeral homes thought to be locally owned, are often owned by a national, publicly-traded corporation, which can lead to more standardized but perhaps less personal service from a business that may be more dependent upon and responsible to the investment community than the local community.

Unlike funeral homes and mortuaries that are part of large corporate organizations, funeral homes that belong to Selected Independent Funeral Homes are owned by people who are part of their communities. Indeed, independent ownership is a primary criteria of membership in the organization. In fact, most Selected Independent Funeral Homes, like Ruebel Funeral Home, are owned by families that have been caring for friends and neighbors for generations.

If local ownership and knowledge of local traditions matter to you, you should ask who owns and operates the funeral home you are considering.

You are welcome to visit the history page of Ruebel Funeral Home - the oldest funeral home in central Arkansas.

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