Types of Contracts: Pre-Need & At-Need
Consumers should be aware of the two types of contracts or agreements made with cemeteries.
A pre-need contract is for a purchase made prior to death and may include burial goods and services such as opening/closing of graves, caskets, vaults and memorialization such as upright monuments or flush monuments. Pre-need contracts can be entered into with a cemetery, a funeral home, monument dealer, retail casket company or other provider.
The second is an at-need contract, for purchases made after a death has occurred. They can include the items noted above with the same parties as referenced above.
Endowment care, sometimes called “perpetual care,” is the maintenance of the cemetery and its grounds, roads, features, and buildings including mausoleums. It does not include the care of monuments or flush memorials unless a separate care fund is noted and stated in your contract. Any cemetery that states or implies that it offers endowment or perpetual care is required to set aside funds with a trustee which can only be used for such maintenance purposes. The care of the cemetery may be limited to the extent of the funds earned and available based on the income earned by the trust funds which are set aside.
- Cemetery costs are generally not included in the funeral costs. They are separate and should be discussed with the selected cemetery.
- Ask if the cemetery and the cemetery’s representative are licensed with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs.
- Ask to see a copy of the price list of the following:
- Ground opening and closing
- Extra depth interments
- Mausoleum entombments
- Entombment or inurnment of cremated remains
- Ask for a range of prices for burial spaces and other burial goods.
- Ask for a balanced presentation of the burial spaces or burial goods.
- Ask if the cemetery has an endowment care fund to maintain the grounds.
- Ask if the contract provides for delivery before death, and be sure the following disclosures are made before signing a contract:
- The cost for each item is separately itemized
- The specific location of any spaces purchased are noted. If your specific location is not selected at the time of purchase, be sure to visit the cemetery within 30 days to make a specific space selection
- A copy of the cemetery flower policy is received
- Obtain a copy of the signed contract which includes the date, name of the buyer(s), name of the seller, all items purchased, and any finance charges involved, including the APR and length of payments.
- You may cancel any contract that was signed in your home by written notice received by the seller within 3 business days. Your contract should indicate your cancellation rights.
- Verify that current licenses are posted for both the establishment and the funeral director you are consulting.
- You should be offered from the funeral provider a current general price list (GPL) for services and merchandise offered to you when you inquire about funeral arrangements.
- You should receive information about cash advances, outer burial containers and casket prices.
- Obtain a copy of the signed contract which includes the date, the name of the buyer(s), the name of the seller, all items purchased, cash advances, and any finance charges involved including the APR and length of payments.
- Embalming is not required by Pennsylvania law. It may be required in certain circumstances such as for viewing periods or mausoleum entombments. In some cases, when transporting remains out of state or out of the country, the transportation carrier or receiving country may require embalming. You may not be charged for embalming not authorized¹.
- If opting for cremation, you are not required to purchase a casket. You may be required to purchase a suitable container for the cremation.
- Know that the funeral establishment may not refuse delivery or charge a fee to handle a casket you purchased elsewhere.
- If the contract is changed for any reason, be sure to receive a copy of all changes or a corrected/revised contract which specifically notes any changes.
- If you made pre-need arrangements which are revocable, you may cancel the contract and receive a refund.
- If the pre-need contract was an irrevocable contract with the funds in trust, you may or may not have it transferred to a funeral home you select. However, there may be costs or charges involved. Ask the seller for clarification.
¹ Pennsylvania Rules and Regulations number 13.201 6 (i) requires any human remains held 24 hours beyond death shall be embalmed or sealed in a container that will not allow fumes or orders to escape or kept under refrigeration, if this does not conflict with religious belief or medical examination.