Our Time: It's no death wish to shop around for a funeral - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Our Time: It's no death wish to shop around for a funeral

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Posted: Sunday, August 3, 2008 5:13 pm | Updated: 10:02 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

It's the elephant at most family gatherings. The topic often used to illustrate the joke that "Denial is not just a river in Egypt."

In this case, "denial" translates into a death wish - what kind of funeral do you want? Cremation or burial? Cheap or expensive?

"Younger people want to plan in advance and think about costs of their own funerals and older people - over 70 - are more traditional, using funeral homes familiar to the family, for example," says Mark Duffy, CEO of Everest, the first national funeral planning and concierge service. Everest is filling a niche demanded by boomer attitudes, he admits.

"There's a confluence of events going on," Duffy says. "Boomers are in charge of their parents and they want things their way. They want to negotiate a funeral. They don't want to pay for what they don't think they'll need."

Q: We're talking about a funeral, though. Isn't it unseemly to be so money-driven?

A: Absolutely wrong. Most of the basic cost of a funeral is the same but funeral homes can add as much as 250 percent in different service charges.

They aren't being "shysters." These are mom-and-pop operations with overhead to worry about. There is no Wal-Mart of funeral homes. So there are huge price differences because usually people don't shop around. Price negotiating is just being smart.

Q: You say the body is the "price driver?"

A: Yes. If the client wants the body present - a traditional funeral with open casket - it restricts the ability to negotiate. If a body is not there, you can have a memorial service wherever you want, from a ballpark to the top of a mountain.

Q: Is cremation cheaper?

A: Cremation offers simplicity and the ability to opt out of the system. There's a growing trend to either have a service without the body present or to opt for cremation.

Q: Do you also negotiate with the cemetery?

A: Of course. We look for people with property to sell (those who bought a grave site and then moved away, for example). These properties are usually significantly cheaper than the current market rate for a grave site.

Q: How does a person access your services?

A: Everest services are available nationwide and direct to the consumer as an employee benefit, often in tandem with specific life insurance policies. ING Employee Benefits just began including Everest services to its customers.

You can also become a direct client through our Web site, www.everestfuneral.com, or by calling (800) 913-8318. We are not a funeral home, we do not sell funeral goods or services, and we do not get commissions from funeral homes. We help you to be smart about where to go.

Q: You said the older generation usually wants a more traditional service. Do their children give them what they want?

A: That depends on whether or not they've talked about it. Usually the older people want to talk about it but their kids don't want to hear it.

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