Originally published on the Peter J. Jackson website by Jacqui Byrne
It’s distressing to see so many sites on the internet relating to funeral rip-offs. Maybe it’s time to try and address the issue and explain some of the fee structure. We only speak for ourselves of course, and we are a member of the Australian Funeral Directors Association and abide by a strict code of ethics as I am sure the majority of Funeral Homes do.
I’ll start with the basic professional fee, the fee all professionals charge for their service, for example, an accountant, an architect, lawyer and so on. Funeral Directors are no different, they have overheads the same as any business and this is what part of this fee covers, staff wages, vehicle fleet maintenance, (registrations, detailing, servicing, and any general maintenance) Office supplies such as stationary, brochures, after funeral booklets, etc. Office equipment, computers, printers, fax machines, copiers or scanners and software. Utilities such as water and electricity. Mortuary maintenance, equipment, cleaning supplies. Housing of the remains, Stock including coffins and caskets, handles, trimmings such as satin to go in the coffins. I could go on as there is much more expense to running a funeral home. Equipment like church trolleys and stretchers, fridges and PA systems are not cheap items and also need to be maintained. Bad debts and very late payments are also a big problem as in all businesses. The Funeral Director is on call 24/7 365 days a year.
To sum up, our professional fee includes: services of the funeral director and staff; planning the funeral; consulting with family and clergy; shelter of remains; preparing and filing of necessary notices and paperwork; obtaining necessary authorizations and permits; registration; coordinating with the cemetery, crematory or other third parties; removal of deceased. In addition this fee includes a proportionate share of our basic overhead costs. In our case there is also a mileage fee, simply for the fact we do hundreds of kilometers in our area. 20 years ago school buses charged a dollar a kilometer to hire the bus for an outing. We charge per kilometer to cover the cost of fuel (if you want to talk exorbitant) and general running cost of the vehicle for transfer ambulance and hearse, such as tires.
The casket you choose will depend on what you personally think is suitable and what you feel you can afford. A solid wood casket or coffin for instance is going to cost much more than a veneered one but all are good quality and nobody should be pressured into choosing something they don’t want, but a so called pine box as so many people seem to think is the least expensive, can be far more expensive than a veneered one. The crematoriums set a standard, a coffin must be of good quality, whether it is an attended cremation or an unattended one. This does not mean it has to be an expensive casket. The difference between a coffin and casket is the shape and cost. A casket is rectangle and the lid opens on a hinge and is usually trimmed in satin and very solid. A coffin is sort of diamond shaped where it is wider at the top than the bottom. It has a screwed down lid and is trimmed also. Coffins can be solid wood or veneered.
It’s interesting to see that nobody minds paying hundreds to thousands of dollars for a wedding but to say goodbye to a family member for the last time is sometimes begrudged or classed as a rip off, which is upsetting as a funeral is just as important if not more so for the family concerned. The word Undertaker derives from “to undertake the instructions of the client” You are in charge, you choose what you want and how and when it takes place. You also have the free choice of getting quotes for the best value for your dollar. A well planned service befitting the life of the deceased with family members or friends being involved is what makes it personal and meaningful.
Embalming costs may apply but it is not required by law except in special circumstances like repatriation to another state or country or if the funeral is not held for a lengthy period after death. After hours removal fees may apply also. Although the funeral director is on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week 365 days a year, if a transfer takes place in the middle of the night and staff are called out you may get this fee. Australia has GST added to their costs, this is by law and there is nothing we can do about it but it doesn’t mean we agree with it.
That concludes our own fees but on top of that there are cash advance fees which are not part of our fee structure but are paid up front by us on your behalf so are added to the funeral expenses. These include cemetery or crematorium fees, these fees are set by the cemetery or crematorium of your choice. In our district one town may charge $110.00 another may charge $1485.00 so the choice and cost of cemetery is yours. In the case of a crematorium the fees are slightly different for an attended and unattended cremation, the crematorium has a fee for posting or placing the ashes. This fee is paid for on your behalf.
Floral is another personal choice of how much you want to spend, after your consideration and choice, we order and pay for the casket spray as part of the service.
Paper notices, prices are structured by the individual newspapers. We ring and place these notices on your behalf and the job number and cost from the newspaper is included on our account.
Certified death certificate, some people get confused about the Dr.’s medical certificate and the certified death certificate. When someone passes away and it isn’t a coronial inquiry, the doctor attending the person will make out a medical death certificate. This certificate can only be used to register the death with the Registrar Generals office, the family do not receive this certificate, then the Registrar General issues a certified death certificate and charges the applicable amount, in our case in Western Australia as of 2007 it is $42.00, this fee can change at any time of course.
Celebrant fees or Clergy gratuity. It is common for Clergy to accept a gratuity for officiating funerals, the same as you would offer to pay for them officiating a wedding. We give the clergy their gratuity on the day on your behalf. The same goes for a celebrant, they have a set fee and this is paid on the day also by the funeral director. If a religious service isn’t required the funeral director will officiate at no extra cost.
As far as the service itself goes, many people see the funeral director for an hour or less on the day and thinkthat is the only part he plays, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Many hours are spent in preparation of the funeral and the highest concern is that it is all well-coordinated and is as least stressful for the family concernedas it possibly can be. As with most professional services this is why you decide to let us undertake your instructions, take care of the family and help make the celebration of the life that was, something to rememberwith fondness and love. I hope this has given some insight to the fee structure, as I mentioned before we cannot speak on behalf of anyone else, this is how we structure our fees but I suspect there isn’t much difference in general.
Peter J Jackson, Funeral Directors is a member of the Australian Funeral Directors Association and we are bound by a strict code of Ethics and Practices. We also follow the guidelines that the Prices Surveillance Authority recommends. The AFDA has embarked on a self regulatory procedure to raise the standards based on public health and work place standards. – see more at http://www.peterjjackson.com/articles.htm