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Washington state—funerals as much as 7 times more expensive at some funeral homes

How to save hundreds of dollars on funeral expenses

With the unemployment rates still on the rise and household incomes decreasing, access to affordable funeral services is more important than ever.

A comprehensive survey of funeral home prices in Washington State shows that a family can save hundreds to thousands of dollars on funeral services by simply shopping around.  In fact, prices may be as much as seven times more expensive at one funeral establishment over another. With the coronavirus pandemic, the need to have cremation and burial pricing available to consumers online is increasingly apparent.

In the summer of 2020, People’s Memorial Association (PMA) conducted its own survey of Washington State funeral home pricing. Washington State funeral homes are leading the nation in this increase of transparency, with 51% of funeral homes including at least partial pricing on their websites. This has climbed up from 38% in 2018 and 27% in 2016.

The PMA staff and volunteers requested General Price Lists (GPLs) from all of the Washington State funeral homes that handled 25 or more cases in 2019. Due to the pandemic, they only collected the pricing via the funeral homes’ websites or the GPL the funeral home submitted. This survey is based on those 200 responding funeral homes.  Only 12 funeral homes didn’t provide pricing (they either require a personal visit or didn’t respond to our emails or phone calls) versus 31 in 2018.

—The 2020 survey discovered:

  • —Cremation prices vary by more than 745%.

    • —The average cost for Direct Cremation in the state is $1,570, with a range from $495 to $4,165.

  • —Burial prices vary by over 400%.

  • —The average price of Immediate Burial is $2,924, with prices ranging from $1,045 to $5,290.

    • A Complete Funeral service with embalming, viewing, and a funeral service averages $5,071 (as low as $2,045 and as high as $11,100).  Basic casket costs were included in both burial options, but caskets can range from less than $1,000 to over $25,000, depending on a family’s preference.

PMA produces the biennial price survey to educate consumers about their options and the cost of different choices.  Individuals wishing to have a copy of the price survey may view and/or download it from the People’s Memorial Association website at peoplesmemorial.org/pricesurvey or contact the office at info@peoplesmemorial.org to request that a copy be mailed.

This year, PMA also has included links in the digital survey to online reviews for funeral homes if people have shared their experiences. While cost is, of course, a huge factor, the service quality and reputation of a funeral home should also be taken into consideration when shopping for a funeral.

Alongside the national organizations Funeral Consumers Alliance and Consumer Federation of America, PMA has lobbied the Federal Trade Commission to update The Funeral Rule from 1984.  This update would require that all funeral homes post their General Price Lists on their websites and email it when requested. Currently, pricing is only required to be provided when someone walks into a funeral establishment.

In addition to conducting these comprehensive price comparisons, PMA provides free classes on end-of-life planning. Class topics include estate planning, advance planning for healthcare, information about both green and conventional funeral options, as well as their costs. Attendees receive supporting legal and planning documents to complete their own end-of-life plan. Since March 2020, there has been a 280% increase in class attendance, largely due to the ease of accessibility and the reminder of human mortality brought on by COVID-19.  PMA promotes that with a little bit of planning before death, unnecessary stress and thousands of dollars can be saved.  For the virtual class schedule, visit www.peoplesmemorial.org/events.

People’s Memorial Association is the only nonprofit organization focused on funeral education and advocacy in Washington State. Members of PMA receive discounted prices on cremation, burial, aquamation, and natural organic reduction services at more than 20 funeral establishments across the state. A lifetime membership is a one-time fee of $50. The approximately 70,000 living members also share ownership of The Co-op Funeral Home of People’s Memorial – a full-service mortuary that serves the King County area. Visit www.peoplesmemorial.org and www.funerals.coop for more information.