Minnesota Direct Sales of Caskets

Minnesota Direct Sales of Caskets
Clearer Laws Make for More Competition

Families dealing with the death of a loved one shouldn’t be forced to pay extra to the state-protected funeral industry.

In Minnesota, the law has long allowed direct sale of caskets to consumers. In 2005, entrepreneur Tom Wegner opened “Caskets & More” to sell low-cost caskets from his store in Bloomington.  The Trappist monks at New Melleray Abbey in Peosta, Iowa, have for decades built and sold caskets as an expression of their religious values and for fundraising. In Ottertail, Patrick and Karen Kilby started “A Simple Pine Box” in 2007—a business specializing in building affordable, custom-made caskets and urns. The Mortuary Science Section of the Minnesota Department of Health confirmed as recently as January 2011 that it is legal to build and sell funeral goods, including caskets, directly to Minnesota consumers.

But in spite of the wholesome simplicity of these businesses, Minnesota’s licensing law for funeral directors is ambiguous and confusing. Sections 149A.50 and 149A.70 imply that funeral goods, including caskets, can only be sold by “funeral establishments” that must meet extensive and expensive state licensing requirements. The confusion caused by this statute can be seen by comparing the marketing efforts of large national chain stores—Wal-Mart sells caskets to Minnesota consumers, but Costco won’t.

Working with IJ’s coalition members Helen Williams, the Trust for Natural Legacies, Funeral Consumers Alliance of Minnesota, the Kilbys and the monks of the New Melleray Abbey, a bi-partisan group of legislators introduced bills to clarify Minnesota’s Mortuary Science statute.  Passage of House File 0482 and Senate File 0473 will ensure that casket builders and retailers can continue to provide low-cost and value-oriented options to Minnesota’s consumers with confidence and security.


Related Cases

Reports, Maps, Charts and Facts

Louisiana Caskets: Saint Joseph Abbey, et al. v. Castille, et al.

 Mortuary Science Section’s Report: Funeral Choices in Minnesota


Op-eds, News Articles and Links

Article: Law's wording should make clear that no one in Minnesota has a monopoly on coffins MPR News (April 25, 2011)

Article: IJ Client Helen Williams Helps Needy Families Obtain Low-Cost Funerals The Star Tribune (January 7, 2011)

Article: Internet Casket Sales Offer Low-Cost Funeral Options; Dayton Daily News (June 5, 2007)


Link: Bill HF0482

Link: Trust for Natural Legacies 
Link: Trappist Caskets at New Melleray Abbey, Peosta, Iowa
Link: Funeral Consumers Alliance
Link: A Simple Pine Box

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