Dying to get ripped off?

As they consider their end of days, many people opt to prearrange their funeral services, both to save money and save their bereaved loved ones the distress of managing what can be an expensive process. According to an article in the AARP magazine, though, for some, this considerate behavior has opened them up to a financial mess.

Buying a package from a funeral home or cemetery, often including a burial site, ceremony and casket, can seem like a bargain-- if the vendor stands by its commitment.

Here's where the problem lies, though. If the company doesn't price it properly, doesn't project enough inflation, if other prices rise faster, the money to cover the cost of the promised services may not be adequate when needed. Depending on how the contract is worded, the vendor may not be liable for the shortfall, leaving you six feet high and dry.

Worse, if the company falls upon hard times and goes belly-up, all of those long-term agreements could be invalid. Also, any large pool of funds set aside against future claims is always a temptation to those not adverse to a little fraud.

The AARP report also warns of bait and switch tactics that are sometimes used to wring more money out of the bereaved. Canceling the agreement or transferring it to another part of the country is also often difficult.

The AARP wisely suggests having your attorney look over any such contract. Or, better yet, instead of buying a program put the same money in a secure investment with a pay-on-death option to the person making arrangements for your funeral.

Go ahead and make your plans, but don't bet the ranch on a pre-paid funeral. And, after all -- what if you live forever?