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How technology is taking some of the pain out of planning a funeral

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Craig Johnson, Clark.com

Losing a loved one, whether it be a close friend or family member, can be a devastating blow to a person’s peace of mind. Tending to the necessary business of making funeral arrangements can add to the agonizing stress of the grieving process.

Sensing a need, several tech start-ups have emerged to simplify the process of planning funeral services and, in the process, blow the lid off the coffins and cremations industry.

Money expert Clark Howard has talked about Funerals.com, which was one of the first to offer online consumers price quotes on burials and cremations.

One of the newer players is Parting.com, which was launched in 2015 by San Francisco-based entrepreneur and co-founder Tyler Yamasaki.

“After a recent loss in the family, we experienced difficulty finding the information we needed to choose a funeral service provider that fit our needs. So we decided to do something about it,” the company says on its website.

Parting.com makes money off funeral homes, selling advertising that allows them to modify their listings. Customers can shop online for affordable prices from among 80% of the more than 19,000 funeral homes in the United States.

“We originally went in with the premise that funeral homes weren’t putting out information because they didn’t want to,” Yamasaki  told the St. Louis Dispatch. “But once we worked with more and more funeral homes, we realized that they provide a really valuable service. They’re really there to help. They just don’t have the know-how or resources to really adapt to the new type of consumer that they’re faced with.”

Another startup, Atlanta-based Funeralocity, allows people to comparison-shop funeral homes in the metro area. Like Parting.com, Funeralocity doesn’t charge users for access to the site. It makes its money from fees generated from sales of the company’s Excellence Program, a package from participating funeral homes. Both websites offer customer rebates.

“Funeralocity was founded to bring transparency to the process of looking for and comparing funeral homes,” the company says on its website. “We bring together all of the information you need to make an informed choice — pricing, services, ratings and reviews — and show you what others have said about the funeral home you’re considering.”

Founder and CEO Ed Michael Reggie told the Post-Dispatch that his service is filling a much-needed void in the industry. “This is giving a transparency that’s been needed to the funeral industry, and maybe that’s going to help the reputation because so many people feel so, in a grief-stricken state, taken advantage of,” he said. “They have no idea what the prices are, and the fact that we can take a lot of that mystery away for them is a good thing for the industry.”

Clark says that people can also save money by joining a memorial society. These nonprofit organizations use group buying power to cut about 75% off cremation or burials. Clark has been a member of one since the 1970s.

RELATED: Plan for your funeral in advance to save big bucks

RELATED: Beware of burial insurance offers

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