Perhaps your loved one is nearing the end of life and you must make arrangements quickly or you may never come to the funeral home if you decide to choose one.
If you’ve used a funeral home in the past, don’t automatically assume that it’s the best choice. Not comparing the fees and services between providers, you may not be overcharged on occasion. This step-by-step guide will help you learn to choose wisely, and will assist you in finding the best funeral home for you and your family.
1. Consult your family and decide on a budget and location.
Once you’ve decided what budget you can allocate to the funeral, you can begin discussing with your family the options for choosing a funeral home. One option is to use the family’s preferred funeral home, which may offer more services at the same cost, or at a lower cost. Another option, if you have the budget, is to choose a funeral home that offers lower-cost services, which can be just as reputable and efficient as the more expensive funeral homes. Regardless of the option you choose, it’s important to discuss together a budget and location so that everyone is on the same page.
Ask your family some specific questions: is there any reason they do not like your current arrangement? is there any specific reason they would prefer to change the end of their relationship? Before going forward, make sure to look for any documents that will help in the decision-making process.
2. Learn about your funeral rights and options
The first step to finding the best funeral home for you and your family is to learn about your rights and options. The Federal Trade Commission provides information on the funeral industry, including the various options available, such as direct burial or cremation, burial or cremation, etc. The FTC also provides information on your rights when it comes to making funeral arrangements.
Next, review your rights as a funeral consumer. The Federal Trade Commission's Funeral Rule is important because it affirms the customer's right to choose an appropriate funeral provider:
- Get price information over the telephone.
- Receive a written, itemized price list when you visit the funeral home
- Don't just buy anything that's put in front of you. Instead, only buy goods and services that you actually want
- Choose not to have embalming
- Use an alternative container instead of a casket for cremation
- If you want to avoid paying extra fees, you can provide your own casket or urn to the funeral home
- You may receive a written statement after you decide what you want, but before you pay
3. Weigh your priorities when choosing a funeral home.
If you’re on a tight budget, you may want to choose a lower-cost funeral home. However, if you have the budget, you may want to choose a funeral home that offers more services at the same cost, or at a lower cost. If you’re looking for a low-cost funeral home, you may want to consider one that offers more basic services.
Ask yourself: How important is a location? Do you prefer proximity to your home, place of worship, or cemetery? Do you prefer price as a critical factor? How flexible is your budget? If you or your family used a funeral firm in the past, how satisfied were you? You may have some special religious or cultural requirements, as well as the desire to preserve your religious practices. But these will not preclude you from completing any of your other needs – even if you feel that simplicity is your first priority.
Some funeral homes will travel more than 30 miles to pick up a deceased person without any extra fees. If a funeral home will not allow family to meet, why would you call the one which is closest to your home? Which is better: saving $1,000 or 15 minutes of driving time?
4. Choose the type of arrangement.
There are several different types of arrangements: direct burial, cremation, and burial or cremation. Some funeral homes offer all three types of arrangements, while others only offer one. It may be easier to choose a funeral home that offers all three types of arrangements, so that you can rest assured that your family will be able to choose the option which is most comfortable for them.
- You might donate your body to a medical school, which in some cases will require no charge for survivors.
- Other very economical choices are “direct cremation” or “direct burial” given that it can lead to a poor burial or no cremation at all.
- You could also consider a funeral service being held at home
- Natural burial in shrouds and boxes is very affordable and environmentally friendly.
- Perhaps you would like a traditional earth burial with embalming, visitation and an elaborate funeral service.
- Whatever you decide before you begin the arrangements is the biggest factor in helping you decide the best, and most reasonably-priced, funeral home for your needs.
5. Get a list and compare prices
Get a list of prices. Many funeral homes offer free price lists. Some will also provide you with a list of prices without requiring you to make an appointment. Ask for a price list so that you can compare the costs of the services and products offered by different funeral homes.
If you can’t find a price survey, don’t let that stop you from asking around. Look online or in the phone book for funeral home listings and, if a particular funeral director seems uncooperative. Do the costs fit within your budget? If not, you may have to consider purchasing a different hunt at a cheaper place, look beyond your immediate area for cheaper prices, or eliminate extra expenses like embalming.
6. Narrow down your choices
Once you have a list of funeral homes that offer the type of arrangements you want, it’s time to narrow your choices even further. To do this, ask yourself questions like the following: Which funeral homes have the best reputation in my area? Which funeral homes are closest to where I live?
Keeping in mind your personal priorities: visit the funeral homes websites. Ask friends, family members and colleagues for their experiences with any of your choices. You could also check online customer review sites, or ask your local Funeral Consumers Alliance for any complaints they have received regarding the processing of their requests. Then, focus your attention on several of the most promising choices.
7. Visit the funeral homes
You should visit each of the funeral homes you are considering to make sure that their facilities are comfortable, clean and professional. It’s also a good idea to ask questions of the staff so that you can get a better idea of what to expect in the future. For example, if you are considering a funeral service that includes embalming, you could ask the funeral director how many hours before the service the body will be available for visitation, or if the funeral home offers any pre-arrangement packages.
If you have questions about the services they offer, it’s important to make an appointment to visit those funeral homes if possible and bring a friend or family person that is less emotionally invested in the funeral than you are.See an array of urns or caskets. Ask about their billing policy. Meet the staff. Are the facilities that you select stable? Do the funeral directors make a reasonable amount of money for services rendered? Do they offer a pleasant environment? Do they help you with all of your needs?
8. Get quotes
Get quotes from several funeral homes, and compare prices and services offered. As much as it might be tempting to get your quotes from only one or two funeral homes, this might not be the best way to save money. Get a variety of quotes from as many funeral homes as possible. Then, go online or in person and compare the prices and services offered by the funeral homes.
At each funeral home, discuss your specific arrangement items and ask for an itemized statement. It will show all of your desired items and show you how many you have chosen, the price of each item, and total cost.
9. Make a decision
Once you have thoroughly evaluated information from several different funeral homes, choose one of the funeral homes you like. At this point, you could complete their pre-need planning form, and pay the deposit if required.Don’t sign a contract with a business where you or your family cannot afford to pay.
If you have prearranged your funeral today, check with your state to see if there is any in-state protections for your funds, and to make sure you do not ancestors as you bury him/her.
10. Put your wishes in writing
Write your wishes down in writing and put your wishes in your pre-need plan. If you have prearranged your funeral, make sure you indicate in writing how you would like your funeral service to be conducted, who will perform the service, and what you want done with your remains. You could also ask to add additional preferences or be sure your wishes are recorded in your pre-need plan. This will give you peace of mind in case something happens to the person you have chosen to care for your funeral arrangements, and will help ensure that your wishes are followed.
If you are planning a funeral in advance of necessity, it is essential that you tell your friends and family about your decision about how you are planning your funeral. Do not put your written instructions only in your Will or safe deposit box, they might not be found and read until after the death of your family member or friend.