The hubris of this action astounds me. This funeral director banked on the fact that their clients did not know funeral laws. That said, the state of Indiana has some odd laws. Indiana law requires the funeral home to take possession of the cremains and the whereabouts of them must be recorded. Cremains are considered final disposition, and a person with legal control can take custody of the cremains, even in Indiana. Indiana may require recording of the placement of the cremains, people still have urns on their mantles or in their gardens. The state might have tricky laws, but the family still has rights. The FCC Funeral Rules still clearly states that we as consumers do not have to pay for any goods and services we do not wish to pay for (except the Basic Fee). Transporting an urn for $700 is something a family can refuse. The family can transport an urn themselves to the place they have decided to have the memorial. This family and many others did not want know their rights and did not want to pay the funeral home the money to drive down the street, so the memorial took place at the funeral home.
Things like this happen – not every time a family sits down with an industry professional- but it happens nonetheless. I find this blatant disregard for human dignity and obvious greed driven behavior at the expense of a family in grief revolting. Many out there do not know where to turn for help when they do not feel comfortable with what an industry professional tells them. To be perfectly honest, how can a person in a state of grief be required to sort through this? This is not the way an industry that deals with a vulnerable population should act ever. The industry should expect to have the government looking over their shoulders making sure they adhere to the law and not lining their pockets with easy money.
What can we do? Continue to act as a light for those around you. People tell me stories because they know I will tell them the truth. They tell me stories because they know I will listen to them. Be open to talking about death to your friends and family. This might be the singular most important act any of us can do to help others. Death is still a taboo topic. Know your rights by doing your research. If you find yourself at a meeting with an industry professional, and what they tell you does not add up, contact the Funeral Consumers Alliance. Their phone number is 800-865-8300. When I need to know a fine point of law, I always contact them. They are always open to help people and have done so for years. The industry does not like them, and that means the Funeral Consumers Alliance knows what they are doing. Do not feel shy about contacting them if you do not know the answer. This is what they do, and they do it well.