How to Choose A Good Funeral Home

The concept of choosing a good funeral home may seem like a bit of an oxymoron. After all, how can you choose anything good during such a bad time in your life? If you’re planning a funeral, it’s because you have recently lost a loved one. However, choosing a not-so-good funeral home to plan your traditional funeral service to say goodbye can cause additional stress and pain. When you look at it that way, it becomes very important to consider tips that can assist you in choosing a good, trustworthy funeral home to handle the final arrangements with care and dignity.

The most common funeral service is also called traditional or a full-service funeral. Because many of us don’t plan funerals every day, we will go through the entire process of selecting a funeral home near you that can offer the best service when you need it the most.

The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) says that it is very important to be comfortable with the funeral home you choose, particularly the funeral director. New York State Law stipulates that care, moving, burial and cremation arrangements can only be provided by licensed funeral directors. The funeral director is also responsible for filing the death certificate, corresponding with the cemetery/crematory and moving the remains to the cemetery or crematory.

If you are going to go with a traditional funeral service, you will most likely work with the funeral home to handle arrangements that will include three elements: the viewing (also called a visitation or a wake), the funeral and the burial. The details of the funeral can vary depending on religion and culture.

But much of the process of selecting a good — or trustworthy — funeral home depends on you. It depends on the questions you ask, no matter how uncomfortable they may be.

Create a Budget and a Timeframe

It may seem impossible put together a budget for a funeral if you have no idea what to expect. However, it’s good to have a dollar amount in mind for your bottom line, especially if you have an idea of what financial assistance may be available to you from resources such as life insurance or pensions.

The costs associated with a traditional funeral would typically include:

  • Basic services fee
  • Remains prepared for viewing
  • Casket or burial container
  • Clergy or celebrant to officiate the service
  • Rental of facility for service
  • Transportation of remains to grave site or crematory
  • Cost of vehicles for family transport if they don’t have access to personal vehicles

You also may want to create a loose timeframe of when you want the service to be held. Some will have the funeral within a week, but others may stretch out the time a bit if they are waiting for other friends and family to come in from out of town. A funeral home that can schedule the arrangements quickly and efficiently will probably be in your best interest.

Shop Around First

According to Forbes.com, the number one reason Americans overpay for funeral services is because they do not investigate more than one facility. Forbes gives resources such as Red Book Funeral Directory or Yellow Pages to use to find funeral homes in your area. See if you can find facilities that offer services based on the budget created.

Do not feel pressured to choose a funeral home just because a family member or friend told you to use the facility. It is great to receive advice during such a tough time, but remember that you are ultimately the one to make the decision, so your mind must be at ease before you commit to a facility.

When you search for funeral homes near you online or in a phone book, ask basic questions about costs. Because you know that you want a traditional funeral, you also know that you will need services such as preparation of the body for viewing, costs of caskets and prices associated with burial and cremation. By law, funeral homes must provide that information if you request it in phone or in person.

When you’re making a list of funeral homes to visit, consider the questions: How long have they have been in business? What is their reputation in the community? Check online reviews and even run a quick Internet search and browse to see if the funeral home has been a part of any recent, or even not-so-recent scandals. Unfortunately, there are some unsavory characters that will take advantages of families for money, so be careful.

Schedule the Arrangement Conference and Be Aware of Your Surroundings

The DCA defines the arrangement conference as the meeting between you and the funeral director where you choose the merchandise and service. If you haven’t already seen it, this is where you would make the request for a general services list, which should cover all of the basic arrangements fees and the casket price list.

Another thing to consider: find another person whom you can trust to take with you to the funeral home for the arrangement conference. Experts suggest having someone accompany you who may be less attached to your loved one who can stay calm during the appointment, help you remain calm and ask questions that you did not think to ask.

Also, when you’re meeting with the funeral director, don’t just listen to the prices or the details of services. Make a note of your surroundings. Is everything neat? Is the staff courteous and professional? Is there a clear procedure and documentation that gives you confidence in the funeral director’s ability to handle your loved one’s arrangements?

Pay Attention to the Details

You probably have an idea of how many people may want to attend your loved one’s final services to pay their respects. Does the funeral home seem to have the space to accommodate a large viewing? Do the rooms have enough chairs? If the facility has varying sizes of rooms, you should be able to take a look at rooms that are different sizes to determine what will work best for the service you have in mind.

Pay attention to things such as parking. Is there a parking lot or street parking? If it’s during the winter season, check out the options for people to get to the door with a minimal amount of trudging through snow and slush.

For the funeral service itself, if you choose to use the funeral home, make sure that their technology, audio and video options fit your needs. Many services are now incorporating technology, for example pictures made into a home movie or a music video of happy memories. If this is something you want at your service, you need to talk to the funeral home about whether they have a screen for slideshow presentations or what kind of speaker setup they have to pipe in music. You’ll also want to pay attention to how much traffic the funeral home has already and whether it seems like it may be too noisy or too crowded to suit your service.

Ask questions, though they may seem strange. For example, some funeral homes have a requirement that all bodies are embalmed but for those that don’t, ask if there is a refrigerated room available. If the service is within a few days, you may be able to save on embalming costs.

If a Funeral Home Director Does Any of These Things…Leave

Federal laws protect consumers from abuse by funeral home staff as legislators have recognized that you are in a vulnerable state. The New York Department of Health lists these illegal actions as follows:

  • Pressuring you to purchasespecific services or merchandise.
  • Refusing to give a receipt.
  • Refusing to provide a price list or itemized statement.
  • Allows someone other than a licensed funeral director make arrangements, prepare the deceased or supervise the burial.
  • Misrepresenting funeral directing laws.

Funeral home directors also should not criticize your choices or otherwise make you feel uncomfortable about your selections. Be wary of anyone who promises “protective” caskets with a rubber gasket. According to reports Reader’s Digest, these gaskets do not stop decomposition and can actually cause the casket to explode because they trap moisture and gases.

Don’t Make a Hasty Decision

It may seem like an emergency and a process that you just want to be over. You may feel like once the funeral is planned and over, you can move forward with the actual grieving process and you want to have that final step to say goodbye. It is also true that when you have just lost a loved one, time is of the essence for getting the service in order.

But you do have some time to consider the best options. Remember that you have the right to certain information and procedures to decide which funeral home inspires the most confidence to plan a memorable, appropriate service.

Sources:
http://www.nyc.gov/html/dca/downloads/pdf/Funerals.pdf
http://www.forbes.com/sites/carolynmcclanahan/2013/07/15/how-to-shop-for-a-funeral/

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