What to Look for in a Funeral Service Provider

If there were any time where it may be too tough to stay levelheaded and calm, it would be during the planning of the funeral for someone you love. Through the pain and loss, you have to make what may seem to be the most mundane of arrangements – what color should be the flowers be – but the reality is that you now face a difficult task. But, what is a painful time doesn’t have to be made more stressful by the responsibility of planning the events around your loved one’s final resting place.

There are several things you should keep in mind as you are trying to determine what to look for in a funeral service provider. We all know that people die every day, but when it happens to us, especially in an unexpected event, it feels anything but common. Though emotions and tension may be running high, we need to remember to take precautions to protect ourselves from issues like fraud, overcharging and substandard service when it comes to funeral services.

To give you some perspective on what you may be up against, recent data from the National Funeral Directors Association says the average funeral $6,600, according to Fox News. Experts note that cemetery services, including the gravesite and vault or liner, may cost up to $3,000.

Brainstorm Before You Go

The death of a loved one, especially if it’s a sudden one, doesn’t always leave room for rational thought. All of a sudden, an onslaught of details are your responsibility. It may be tough, but before you even begin to look for the funeral service providers, have a loose idea of what you want. Do you think you will be planning a funeral or a memorial service? Have you considered whether you are going with burial or cremation? Do you have someone to assist you with writing or creating an obituary?

Having an idea of what you need before you visit the funeral home gives you a foundation to work from and acts as a guide for the questions that you can prepare to ask the potential providers.

Choose the Type of Funeral You Want – And Have an Idea of the Costs

The Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information website gives three types of services that you will need to decide on. It will probably save some time to be aware of which type of funeral is which before you select your funeral service provider.

When you have a traditional funeral, you usually will have a viewing, visitation or wake followed by a funeral service with a formal program. It is this type of service where you will have to transport the body to either a cemetery or crematory to handle burial, entombment or cremation. This funeral is typically the most expensive.

But you when a body is buried shortly after death, is called a direct burial, and there is no viewing, visitation or wake involved. If you wish, you can hold a memorial service later at the gravesite. While there is still an additional cost for a graveside memorial, it still costs less than a full, or traditional, funeral. In the instance of direct burial, however, you are still responsible for the funeral home’s transportation of the body, buying a casket or burial container and a cemetery plot or crypt, according to Consumer Information.

Direct cremation is when the body is cremated shortly after death, with no embalming, viewing or visitation, the FTC says. Costs will include the funeral home’s basic services, transport of the body and a crematory fee. Should you choose, you can keep the remains; additional fees may be incurred if you select a cemetery plot or crypt to bury or entomb the remains.

Compare Multiple Funeral Service Providers

Choosing a funeral service provider is not like buying a pair of shoes or a new car. But keep in mind that it is an expense and you don’t want to purchase something that will cost more than it should have due to a grief-stricken haze. If you don’t have time to visit more than one funeral home, at least call two or three in your area, asking them basic questions based on the loose outline of what you want for your loved one.

Experts say that many people often choose a funeral home based on recommendations from friends and family, the facility is in their area or the provider is simply the one with the biggest ad in the phone book. But it is worth it to ask more questions, research more providers and to just be a bit more selective when you are making your decision.

Make Sure Your Rights Aren’t Being Violated

Did you know that Congress passed legislation to protect consumers planning funerals? According to Funeral-Help.com, the law first passed in 1984 and was then revised in 1994. It is known as the Funeral Rule Legislation. By law, here is what is required of funeral service providers:

• They have to provide a general price list covering the fees of all services offered available to you, whether you ask in person or by phone.
• They have to show you a price list for caskets, outer containers and urns, though they are not required to let you keep a copy. (It’s probably a good sign if they do let you take one, though.)
• They can’t make claims about “sealing,” “gasketed,” or “protective” urns or outer containers that are not true. Apparently, such claims that imply the remains will forever be protected are a huge scam of less-than-honest funeral service providers.
• Funeral homes can’t state that certain caskets are required for cremation.
• You can purchase a casket from anywhere you choose, not just from the funeral home, and the funeral home can’t change the prices or charge any extra fees.

This year, lobbyists are calling for more changes to the law that apply not only to what is legal for what funeral homes offer, but also online retailers, cemeteries, crematories, retail stores and any other seller of funeral services and merchandise.

If a funeral service provider doesn’t adhere to this rules – or worse, doesn’t seem to be aware that there are rules – it is a good indication that they are not legitimate and do not deserve your trust or your business.

Make Sure the Funeral Service Provider Fits Your Own Criteria

In this digital age, there are many different options to plan the service of your loved one. What’s important to you about how they are laid to rest? What was important to them?

Do you care if the provider is a locally owned business or part of a national chain? Are you comfortable ordering through a website or would you prefer to meet the funeral director in person? This may be a good time to have a discussion with family members or friends that may also have a vested interest in planning the memorial services.

Do keep in mind that legislation protecting you and ensuring that you have access to certain information only applies to funeral homes at this time. You may feel safer knowing that you are protected by law when you decide to use a more traditional approach to planning the service of your loved one.

Take Note of Your Surroundings

If you have started to actually visit funeral service providers or sellers of merchandise, take a look around. If it is a retailer, the products should be clean, orderly and neatly arranged. If it is a funeral home, staff should be courteous, attentive and available. Even online retailers should have some form of customer service to make you want to choose their business.

Ultimately, when you are selecting a funeral service provider, whether a funeral home, online retailer or other third party, choose someone you are comfortable with. This is perhaps the most important part of selecting a funeral service provider. You must choose someone whom you trust to take care of your loved one’s remains. You need to trust that they will take care of the details, that they will stay true to their word and that they are offering you fair prices for their services.

You may want to know just how you may determine if you a comfortable with the potential service provider. Consider this: how do they respond to your questions? Do they have any samples in various price ranges or are they only showing you the most expensive options (remember your rights!)? Are they empathetic, professional and understanding when they speak to you? Trust your instincts when you meet the provider’s representative to make sure that you can actually imagine them taking care of your loved one’s arrangements without worry.

Choosing a funeral service provider is only one of the first steps in dealing with the grief that comes along with losing a loved one. Ensuring that you take care to make the best decision possible may be a comfort as you move forward with the healing process.

Sources:
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0303-choosing-funeral-provider
http://www.funeral-help.com/choosing.html
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0302-types-funerals
http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2013/04/11/10-facts-funeral-directors-may-not-tell/

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