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A consumer guide to Utah funerals
Having the conversation » It may be uncomfortable, but it’s important to discuss burial plans.

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"There are a lot of misconceptions about what’s healthy to do and what’s legal to do," she said. "One of the things is having the confidence to break from the norm."

Now a volunteer with the Funeral Consumers Association of Utah, Owen advocates having the funeral you want to have and tutors those interested in do-it-yourself funerals.

At a glance

It’s your funeral: Plan it your way

Whether you’re planning for a loved one or for yourself, here are some tips to keep in mind:

Buy only the services you want. You don’t have to buy a package deal.

Comparison shop. Get pricing info from several mortuaries online or by phone.

Ask about embalming. Utah law does not require embalming unless the body is crossing state lines, but some mortuaries do for public viewings in their facilities.

Get it in writing. Have the mortuary provide a written list of services agreed to before you pay.

Source: Federal Trade Commission

Average cost for funeral services (2012)

Basic services fee » $1,975

Removal/transfer of remains » $285

Embalming » $695

Other preparation of the body » $225

Use of facilities for viewing » $400

Use of facilities for funeral » $495

Use of a hearse » $295

Use of a service car/van » $130

Basic memorial printed package » $150

Metal Casket » $2,395

Average cost of a funeral » $7,045

Vault » $1,298

Total cost of funeral with vault » $8,343

Source: National Funeral Directors Association

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"We have no objections to funeral homes and for most people. They’re still going to want to use the funeral home and have a conventional burial," she said. But "it’s very empowering for people to realize that they can have a simple, inexpensive funeral. The main thing is to talk with your family about it."

Utah’s funeral industry » A recent anonymous posting making the rounds online skewers the funeral industry, with the writer lambasting an increasingly corporate environment that encourages high-pressure sales tactics at a time when consumers are emotionally vulnerable.

While it’s true that funeral home chains have a foothold nationally, the NFDA estimates 86 percent of funeral homes remain privately owned by families, individuals or closely held companies.

In Utah, just three of 86 firms belonging to the Utah Funeral Directors Association (UFDA) are run by corporate entities, said Alec Anderson, president of UFDA who runs Anderson & Sons Mortuary in American Fork.

That’s not to say corporations haven’t tried horning in on Utah family funeral homes. Anderson said two major national chains, Carriage Services and Service Corporation International (SCI), approached his father about selling their 5th-generation funeral home. Anderson says his father turned them down because he didn’t want to lose control of the family business and didn’t think the corporate approach would serve their community well.

"Long-term businesses have been in business a long time because they’re good to the public, they’re fair to the public and they have a relationship with the public," Anderson said.

As for putting on the hard sell when a customer is emotionally fragile, Kurt Soffe says that would undercut the business’s reputation and standing in the community. The proliferation of online review sites also keeps funeral homes in check.

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"We’re here to make a profit, but if you put these families first, the money will follow, your profitability will follow."


Twitter: @jnpearce

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