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How are funeral expenses broken down for families?

When a family is struck by the unexpected loss of a loved one after a car accident, countless questions arise. How did the accident happen? Was there anything that could have prevented it? Who was at fault? These are all questions that will need to be answered in the course of a wrongful death case.

One of the more significant costs - the cost of a funeral - tends to be steep, as there are many different expenses that come into play. Most funeral homes charge a basic services fee, which encompasses services that are included in almost all funerals: planning the event itself, obtaining certain permits and creating notices, securing the decedent's death certificate, housing the body and arranging services with the cemetery or crematory.

The basic services fee generally does not cover other services common to funerals, such as a viewing inside the funeral home itself, embalming the body, staff and equipment necessary for services by the graveside, cremation, interment, use of a hearse and the casket. It's important for families to know that embalming, which can be quite expensive, is usually not legally required and opting against it can save a family money. Still, if a family plans on having a viewing or visitation, the home will often require embalming. Finally, a funeral home may charge additional fees related to outside vendors, such as florists, members of the clergy or musicians.

After a discussion with the funeral provider, the provider will usually offer a family an itemized statement detailing the costs for services. Many Virginia families are shocked by how much a traditional funeral can cost; even a pared-down event can prove very costly for a grieving family. If the decedent's death was caused by the negligence of another driver, the family may pursue a wrongful death lawsuit to recoup these expenses. If successful, this type of lawsuit can provide much needed financial relief.

Source: FTC.gov, "Funeral costs and pricing checklist," accessed Dec. 12, 2014

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