How to select a Funeral Home & Director
by : Norm Bowen - 07-Feb-2018
Ten questions to ask before choosing a Funeral Home / Director
Before selecting a funeral home and associated funeral director to help with final arrangements for your loved one, experts recommend interviewing more than one, preferably in person. You should compare their costs, services, and personal styles before making a final hiring decision. It can also be helpful to bring along a reliable family member or friend for moral support.
These questions may be helpful when selecting the goods and services that best meet your needs.
1. What Alternatives Are Available for the Body's final resting state?
A reputable funeral director will mention various types of final arrangements, such as embalming, traditional earth burial, cremation, above-ground burial in a mausoleum, or donating the body to a medical school or clinic as an anatomical gift.
2. Can I See a Price List Before Making Any Decisions?
The Funeral Rule, enforced by federal law, requires funeral directors to give you pricing information when you're shopping for funeral goods and services (many consumer groups suggest you have a general idea of funeral costs before starting your search).
If you ask about final arrangements in person, the law requires funeral directors to give you a written general price list that you can keep, itemizing the range of costs of the goods and services they provide. Before you look at any caskets or outer burial containers, be sure you have a price list with specific prices for each item. If a local or state law requires a particular item -- for example, a container to surround the casket, the price list must state this, and include a reference to the particular law. The list must also reaffirm that you're free to choose the goods and services you want.
If you're shopping for funeral goods and services over the phone, funeral home representatives are still legally required to provide price information to you if you ask for it. The key here is asking -- and being as specific as possible. For example: Mention a particular type and style of casket so that you can compare the price tags of more than one provider.
Some funeral directors may also agree to mail you a price list that you can peruse at home.
3. What Are the Basic Costs Involved?
Although some people are uncomfortable bargaining or comparison-shopping when it comes to funeral goods and services, a lot of money is at stake.
The Funeral Rule regulates funeral services and purchases, allows providers to charge a basic fee for overhead and services common to most arrangements. The basic services fee commonly includes these items:
- Funeral planning
- Securing the necessary permits and copies of death certificates
- Preparing the death notice
- Storing the body
- Coordinating arrangements with a cemetery, crematory, or other providers
While you can't decline to pay the basic fee, you should be aware of exactly what services are included in it.
4. What Other Costs Will There Be?
Beyond the basic service fee, funeral homes charge additional amounts for other goods and services related to the final arrangements.
The Funeral Rule is both broad and specific in requiring that funeral homes must provide a written list specifying the costs of the basic services of the funeral director, staff, and overhead, along with all of the following items that it offers:
- Forwarding remains to another funeral home
- Receiving remains from another funeral home
- Direct cremation
- Immediate burial
- Transferring remains to the funeral home
- Other preparation of the body
- Use of facilities and staff for viewing
- Use of facilities and staff for funeral ceremony
- Use of facilities and staff for memorial service
- Use of equipment and staff for graveside service
- The range of casket prices appearing on the establishment's casket price list
- The range of outer burial container prices appearing on the outer burial container price list
5. What's Included in a Charge for a Cash Advance?
Some providers also charge to cover amounts paid up front for funeral goods and services purchased from outside vendors and providers. These include charges for incidentals such as flowers, obituary notices, and an honorarium for the officiating clergy. Bear in mind that these costs are optional and may be negotiable. For example, if you or another person is willing to write and place an obituary, you can save on this cost.
6. Is Financial Assistance Available?
Funeral directors deal daily with death goods and services. If asked, they should be able to provide information on finding and qualifying for financial assistance with funerals from local, state, and national sources.
7. How Long Have You Been in Business?
A funeral home that's been in business for a long time is usually more apt to provide dependable service, along with a list of clients you might consult if inclined.
8. What Memberships and Licenses Do You and Your Staff Members Maintain?
There are a number of organizations that funeral practitioners may opt to join. These organizations, include the National Funeral Directors Association and the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice, offer programs, information, and some certifications. While participation in such groups isn't mandatory, it may indicate that a particular funeral director and the staff remain interested in industry trends and committed to continuing related educational studies.
State laws require funeral directors, funeral establishments, crematories, and cemeteries to secure and maintain licenses to do business. The agencies that issue such licenses differ by state. To check on whether an individual and establishment are licensed and in good standing (and to see if they have any violations), contact the local department of consumer affairs or the state's board of funeral directors and embalmers. To find your state licensing board, Google search “State Board of Funeral Directors” for your state.
9. Are You Locally or Nationally Owned?
Many of the neighborhood funeral homes that were once owned and operated by generations of the same family are now owned by a national conglomerate.
If ownership issue is important to you, ask about it.
10. Do You Hire Any Services from Other Providers?
Many funeral providers are one-stop operations that provide the diverse services related to final arrangements, from refrigerating, embalming, and cremating a body to supplying vehicles to transport surviving friends and relatives to the funeral and burial site. However, some contract some of these services from outside providers. While this doesn't always incur an increase in overall costs, it may. Just be sure you're aware of what services are provided by every establishment, and whether there is a markup for them.