A loved one just passed – what do you do?
There are many important things you need to do after someone passes, and one of the most important is to choose a funeral home. If you don’t already have one in mind, finding the right funeral home and one that you trust can seem overwhelming, especially at a time when you’re grieving the loss of a loved one. Even if you are familiar with a certain funeral home, many people still aren’t sure how their fees and level of service compare with others in the area.
To help with the process of finding the right funeral home for you and your family, we’ve outlined various steps and ideas below:
1) Consult with Family and Friends
This should be the first step. Find out if a loved one had certain funeral arrangements in mind (whether written in a living will or even communicated verbally). Find out if your loved one had prepaid for any funeral expenses, if they had a living will, or if there were any other documents that may have expressed their wishes.
2) Determine a Budget
Speak with other family members and determine how much you’re able to spend. A common mistake is working backwards – planning a funeral and then figuring out how much it costs and how to pay for it. By determining a budget up-front, you can plan the funeral cost around the funds that are available.
3) Know Your Rights and Exercise Them
The Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule states that you, as a funeral consumer, have the right to:
- Obtain pricing from a funeral provider over the phone
- Receive an itemized list of prices during a visit
- Select and purchase only the goods and services you want for your loved one
- Make the decision whether or not to have your loved one embalmed
- Elect to use an alternative container, instead of a casket, if cremation is chosen
- Bring your own urn or casket to the funeral home without being charged additional fees
4) Determine Your Priorities
There are many factors to consider – determine which ones are the most important to you, your family, and the situation.
- Pricing – is there a budget in mind?
- Convenience of Location - proximity to home, place of worship, cemetery?
- Important Religious / Cultural Factors – can they accommodate them?
- Ample Parking - this is important if there will be a funeral service, and you expect a large crowd will be present.
- Handicap accessibility?
If price and location are important, keep in mind that most funeral homes will travel up to 30 miles to pick up a deceased loved one without extra charges. If the family will not be gathering at the funeral home, you may consider a less expensive option that may be a little further away.
5) Obtain a List of Funeral Homes / Cremation Service Providers and Compare
Ask trusted friends and family which funeral homes they’ve used in the past and if they would recommend them. Word of mouth is always a great way to find good service providers. Then do your research. Check Google, Yelp, and other online reviews, and call each of them to ask some general questions. Some questions to ask by phone can include:
- Are they available when you need them to be for your loved one?
- What is the pricing for the various options (the FTC requires them to provide this by phone)?
- How do they differ from other funeral homes in the area?
- Why they can service your family the best?
It can also be a good idea to check with your local Funeral Consumers Alliance to see if they have a list of prices for funeral homes in your area. If the decision is made to cremate, it may also be helpful to talk to some cremation service providers in your area to compare pricing and services (as there can sometimes be a significant price difference).
6) Determine the top 2-3 Locations from Your Phone Calls and Visit Them
Make an appointment at the locations you would like to visit. It is a good idea to have a list of questions with you and always helpful to bring a friend or another family member along to the visits. While meeting with funeral directors, ask for their general price list and have them go over it with you. If known, provide your specific requirements and ask for an itemized statement. Ask about urn or casket options and view their selection room. Take a tour of the facility. Discuss any special needs you may have (religious, military, cultural, etc.) and ask how they can accommodate them.
Some questions to ask yourself after every location you visit can include:
- Is the funeral director willing to help and seem trustworthy?
- Is he/she sensitive to your values and needs?
- Do you like the facility?
- What’s your ‘gut feeling’?
7) Make a Decision
Compare price, location, service, staff, and convenience. Also, did the Funeral home representatives you spoke with or met with sync with you and your family? Talk it over with family and friends and make a decision.
After a decision is made, don’t second guess it. You did your research and made the best choice based on the information you had.
8) Additional Considerations / Prepaid Arrangements
If you don’t have an immediate need but are looking to make plans for the future for yourself or a loved one, you can follow many of the same steps above. Planning ahead can relieve your family of friends of the potential stress and burden of making big and important decisions for you at a difficult time. Funeral homes and cremation service providers have specific pre-need and pre-paid programs they will be happy to speak with you about. In addition to making it easier on your family, planning in advance gives you time to research various memorial options. If burial is chosen, there are many beautiful headstones and other options that go along with it. If cremation is chosen, you can now do a prepaid tree memorial, be scattered at sea, be included in an artificial ocean reef, among others.