Avoid the Funeral Scam with Careful Estate Planning

Avoid the Funeral Scam with Careful Estate Planning

Barry E. Haimo, Esq.

May 21, 2015

Few crimes are as disgraceful as taking advantage of an aging, vulnerable senior.

Yet elder scams have become increasingly prevalent within the last several years, with some referring to elder abuse crimes as one of the major crimes of the 21st century. As the senior citizen population continues to grow rapidly, so do incidents of crimes against the elderly.

Perhaps some of the most heartbreaking examples of elder scams are funeral and cemetery scams. As shocking as it may sound, it is not uncommon for disreputable funeral homes to try and take advantage of seniors’ unfamiliarity with the costs of funeral services as they struggle with the death of a loved one.

Alejandro Garcia’s story paints a perfect example.

Dishonesty at the Funeral Home

Alejandro and Betty Garcia had shared more than 50 happy years together when she died suddenly at the age of 79. It was with a heavy heart that Alejandro called his only son, Mathew, to tell him of the unexpected news. Mathew worked at the US embassy in Australia and hadn’t been able to rush home in time to say goodbye in time.

Mathew was naturally distraught and promised to book the next available flight home for as soon as his schedule allowed—ideally within the next week. Alejandro was relieved to know his son would be able to make his mother’s funeral, but he knew that he would have to handle the difficult task of making funeral arrangements on his own.

Alejandro didn’t know much about funeral homes, but he knew one had recently opened on the outskirts of his small central Florida town. Alejandro found their number in his town’s directory of businesses and gave them a call. He spoke to a young man on the phone who promised to take care of everything. An appointment was scheduled for later that afternoon.

The funeral home was a bright and elegant establishment, and Alejandro felt comforted as soon as he walked in the door. The young man he had spoken to on the phone rushed to greet Alejandro, introducing himself as the funeral director, Mr. Winters. The two of them sat down in Mr. Winters’ office to discuss funeral plans.

Betty had always wanted a simple funeral. Money was tight, and Alejandro was eager to keep costs down. Mr. Winters began outlining a long list of services Alejandro had never even heard of, insisting that all of them were necessary if he wanted to properly honor his wife’s memory. By the end of the meeting, Alejandro was facing an overwhelming bill for expenses like extravagant floral arrangements and a costly new gown for his wife.

But the biggest, most unexpected cost for Alejandro was the $7,000 mahogany casket with a coffin vault. Mr. Winters assured him that the casket was necessary even though Mrs. Garcia was to be cremated, and that he wouldn’t find a casket for much cheaper anywhere else. Alejandro was so exhausted and eager to end the unpleasant meeting that he agreed to nearly all of Mr. Winters’ aggressive suggestions.

Avoiding Funeral Scams Requires Careful Planning

Alejandro ended up spending thousands of dollars more than he wanted or needed to thanks to the manipulative funeral director. Had Alejandro and his family researched and worked out funeral arrangements in advance, he may have been able to avoid the unpleasant job of negotiating services while he was vulnerable and grieving. With research, planning, and the guidance of trustworthy, qualified professionals, Alejandro could have avoided falling into this common funeral scam trap.

Choosing a reputable funeral company can play an important role in planning a funeral wisely. In the Plantation, Florida area, Levitt Weinstein Memorial Chapels & Cemeteries is a respected community establishment that has been assisting families with funeral and burial arrangements for 85 years. The longstanding funeral home prides itself in unparalleled and personalized service, and encourages families to visit their location to meet with staff for pre-planning arrangements.

A knowledgeable estate planning attorney can also play an important role in making funeral arrangements that satisfy your unique needs, preferences, and budgets. A good attorney will have a network of funeral providers he or she has worked with before, and be able to accompany you through the planning process as a compassionate guide and professional advisor.

Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
Haimo Law
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