Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death

image of the book cover for Final Rights

Two of leading advocates for consumer rights in dealing with the funeral industry have written a book: Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death. Joshua Slocum is executive director of Funeral Consumers Alliance, a nonprofit with over 90 chapters throughout the USA and Lisa Carlson is executive director of Funeral Ethics Organization, a nonprofit that works with the funeral industry to try to improve its ethical standards.

Abuse of consumers by the funeral industry has only worsened in the decades since Jessica Mitford’s landmark expose The American Way of death. Families are exploited financially at a time of intense grief, prepaid funeral money vanishes into thin air. In eight states, families are denied the healing that can come from personal involvement in caring for their dead.

But a funeral consumer movement is awakening. As with natural childbirth and hospice, Americans are asserting their right to take charge of a major event in their lives. Many still want the help of a funeral director-but to assist, not to direct. And many are handling it themselves, with home burials, green burials, or direct arrangements with a crematory. Final Rights provides the information consumers need to take back their rights under existing law, while proposing legal changes that could benefit all Americans who will plan or pay for a funeral.

Death is inevitable. We may not like to think about the details but this blog is dedicated to helping people at that difficult time. It is much easier if you can take some time in advance and help those who will be asked to cope in the wake of your death to consider what should be done. This book is a helpful resource to aid that process.

Make Your Own Coffin

The cost of coffins is often too expensive for those who must pay for the expenses of a funeral. And those fancy coffins are often be pushed on grieving relatives as an indication of how much the survivors care – which I hate. The amount you spend on a coffin says nothing about your love for the deceased. If you have lots of money to spare and you want to spend a great deal of money on a coffin, fine. My father’s coffin was hand made by a friend which was incredibly great – much more appropriate than a fancy coffin, in my opinion, and my father’s.

Here is an article on a Coffin-Making class from Make (a great magazine for those that like to make things themselves).

Forty-five year-old Randy Schnobrich, a professional woodworker in Grand Marais, told me that he’s noticed people are paying more attention to green burial options in recent years

Schnobrich’s course costs $700 ($470 materials + $225 tuition) and participants spend three days constructing a coffin out of inch-thick cabinet grade pine. The caskets are made mainly with hand tools (planes and saws).

“You could obviously just use machinery and blast right through [the project] but that’s kind of not the essence of the school,”

Although the course fee includes all materials, one woman who took the course provided her own lumber. Planks from a pecan tree milled on her parents property were used.

Making your own coffin isn’t going to appeal to everyone. But many would value such a connection to the cycle of life. This option is not only are personal and environmentally friendly but save you money that can be used to enjoy life instead of just burying it in the ground.

Related: Casketplans.com coffin-making plans for between $40 and $45, as well as kits that range from $700 to $1,700 – Cost of Dying Rises Above £7,000 in the UKAffordable Funeral Services

Cost of Dying Rises Above £7,000 in the UK

Cost of dying rises above £7,000

Survey shows that funeral costs have risen by 61% over the past seven years… “As a nation we need a wake-up call. Our research indicates that although there is indeed openness to talking about death, action is still greatly lacking. Steps need to be taken to avert the sort of distress and concern experienced by the nearly one-in-five people who struggle with funeral costs.”

Well said. And we need to look for more affordable solutions that demonstrate love and respect.

The costs increases could have soon been worse but the Church of England blocked funeral cost increases:

The Church of England has thrown out plans to increase the cost of weddings and funerals by nearly 50 per cent after hearing of widespread opposition among the clergy.

Though actually when you read the full article it isn’t as clear as that. The basic fee increased but extra fees were eliminated.

The UK government has a program that may help low income citizens with funeral costs. The government funeral payment includes necessary burial or cremation fees, certain other specified expenses and up to £700 for any other funeral expenses.

Affordable Funeral Services

I am frustrated with how some people take advantage of others who are facing a difficult time in their lives when coping with the deal of a loved one. People have enough to deal with when a loved one dies they should have honest and well meaning advice to help guide them. This site aims to do that as part on my new site on money matters in general.

I actually remember hearing about the pressure tactics used by some to get people to pay way more for a coffin than they would chose to given all their other priorities. The prices are often incredibly high and the tactics used to pressure people into paying more by making it seem like avoiding wasting money on a funeral casket is somehow a sign of not enough love for the deceased I find disheartening. For my father’s funeral our friend made my father’s casket himself and some of those he worked with dug his grave. How much more loving a gesture can there be? That is far more special I think than spending huge amounts of money.

I can’t remember exactly how it happened. I can’t remember if he said he wanted a simple pine box coffin first, I think he did. It is the type of thing he definitely would have wanted – a simple coffin. He wouldn’t want to waste money on a fancy casket. He spent money much more sensibly in my opinion, on things like travel, saving for retirement and paying for his kids education. What is right for each person is up to them and those that love them, but equating the fanciness of the casket with how much the person is loved and respected is wrong.

A funeral is a difficult time. And a meaningful time. And a time when people are venerable. I hope this site can help people find honorable solutions that are also affordable and fitting for their needs.