There are numerous decisions and problems that need to be handled after the passing of a loved one, and when one of those is choosing the funeral home to handle your needs — whether you’re looking for a visitation and burial service, a cremation, a graveside memorial, or even just a memorial banquet — it can seem overwhelming to even contemplate.
By considering each type of need that must be fulfilled by the funeral home, the task at hand is simplified greatly. Taking into consideration the funeral home’s location, staff, available services and products, and researching all necessary fees involved, will ensure you’ve made the right choice from every angle, allowing you to have the service you’re looking for without having someone take advantage of your pocketbook.
Let’s take a look at the five steps necessary to selecting the funeral home that’s right for you.
Knowing the Staff
Learning about the available staff is an important first step of the process, because the funeral director will be your personal support for all funerary services, not only for yourself, but also any funeral attendants to visit the home during the service. You will quickly — subconsciously, even — evaluate the funeral director’s professionalism, taking into account their personality and the experience they and their staff have in providing the services you’re looking for.
The other members of the staff necessary to the service will depend on the type of service being performed. Open casket funerals require embalmers providing restorative techniques and makeup, while a graveside memorial following a visitation calls for the need of a driver for delivering the casket to the cemetery. The experience of these individuals can also make an impact on the success of the service, so determining the capabilities of any professionals involved is a wise decision to make.
Finding the Best Location
Most customers who later feel they made the wrong decision in choosing their funeral home state that their decision-making process consisted solely of choosing the closest funeral home. Following this line of thinking can be sensible in an emergency, such as when choosing a hospital, but using the same rationale for deciding which funeral home is right, can result in issues such as lacking the facilities you need, or being located inconveniently far from the burial site.
Some customers are more interested in the aesthetics of a funeral home than others. Visiting the websites of funeral homes can show you a typical memorial hall or foyer, but visiting the funeral homes personally is the best way to guarantee that the home meets your specifications, as well as evaluating the surrounding area for any services out of doors. Other necessities, such as the amount of available parking on-site or on the street, will also best be determined by a personal visitation.
Finding the Right Facilities
Another important step in choosing the right funeral home is to consider the facilities required to meet your demands. For example, if there will be a cremation, it is mandatory to find a funeral home that also provides crematory services or the ability to transport the deceased to a crematorium. If religious services are being performed at a memorial service, the availability of a chapel is important information, along with its size and any denominational specializations required.
If the memorial is to be attended by a large group, often times a banquet service is offered after the funeral itself. In this case, the number of attendants and food/drink needs must be determined beforehand and provided to any funeral director so they can assess their ability to provide you with the services you require. That way, any issues that could arise (such as the availability of bar service, or the types/amount of food to be prepared) are handled before the day of the service.
Selecting the Right Products
The products available at a funeral home are dependent upon the services offered, as well as the general economic range of products desired by their clientele. (For example, one would not find crematory urns at a funeral home that does not provide cremation services.) Many only offer displays of their products in showrooms or catalogues, though some have websites with links to product lines they carry. This means a personal visit to the funeral home will be necessary to determine the exact product you’re looking for
Determining the price range of the products within your general area is a useful way to avoid being exploitatively charged by a funeral home capitalizing on grief and ignorance. There are also mandates that funeral homes are required to follow regarding their advertising and selling tactics. Any claims about “protective” or “sealed” caskets, especially in regards to preserving the remains, are not permitted, as they are patently false.
Another especially popular scam to befall unwitting customers is the demand that a casket be purchased for crematory services. This is sometimes paired with customers only being shown the higher-price models without being offered alternative containers.
Asking About Fees
It is equally important to be aware of any fees demanded by the funeral home for their services. While all funeral homes issue service fees to pay for staff, utilities, and facility upkeep, other fees may also appear on the invoice. Requesting a sample invoice from your funeral director or the individual in charge of accounting before receiving an estimate is a wise move, ensuring that they expose any fees normally hidden in the back end before you even request an estimate. Beware that some fees may even be underhanded attempts to take more of your money; for example, handling fees charged for purchasing a third-party casket are not allowed.
As there are over 20,000 funeral homes operating in the United States today, finding the perfect fit for your needs can seem like a pursuit too difficult to be worth the effort, but when you define your priorities before beginning the search, most inadequate or unqualified choices very quickly fall to the wayside. This means you will have the pick of the litter amongst a group of qualified, caring funeral directors with the facilities and services you need to be able to move on.
Updated: March 31, 2014