This might not be the easiest subject to brooch when you haven’t come to terms with the death of a loved one, but if your loved one is coming to the end of their time or if they’ve tasked you with this heavy tasks of finding a funeral home for them, you will have to do it.
But with many funeral homes around, the last one offering a very sweet deal that’s hard to pass but the next one offering what appears to be a better deal, how do you settle on one funeral home?
Whether your loved one is nearing death and you must find an ideal funeral home quickly of you are planning for your funeral in advance and just need to be sure that the home you choose will make grieving easier for your loved one, this article guides you on everything you need to know about what makes an ideal funeral home.
Funeral Home Requirements
Even before we look at some of the important basic requirements, it’s important to bear in mind that the first thing to check off your list is the fact that you must feel comfortable with the funeral home’s funeral director. So, take advantage of the first meeting by asking all the hard questions as you learn about the services they offer and get a general sense of what it would feel like for your loved ones (or you) to work with that funeral home. The cost should also be the other thing you ask about at the first meeting, and though it may feel a bit uneasy about asking for a quote, it is an important consideration and part of the funeral home shopping process. Don’t forget to inquire about the cemeteries they have and what they recommend.
With that in mind, go on to make sure that the funeral home(s) you are considering meet your most basic requirements.
These requirements include:
- The city that the funeral home is located
- If you’d want to work with a funeral home that is culturally or religiously affiliated
- Should you be planning a cremation, find out if the funeral home owns a crematorium or if they work with other services, and the cost implications,
- Should be planning a burial, determine if you’d rather work with a funeral home that operates their own crematorium or not?
- Things about handling natural burials should also be covered in the initial meetings with the funeral homes.
Questions To Keep In Mind When Choosing A Funeral Home
With some of the important funeral home requirements out of the way, let’s now take a look at some of the important questions to ask and keep in mind as you search for an ideal funeral home.
- Your comfort levels? – How comfortable are you with the home or the director? Do you get the feeling like the funeral home director to understand your needs; this is the type of funeral you’d want, and do they seem committed to helping you attain that vision?
- Which goods and services do they offer, and the pricing? The FCA requires the funeral homes to come up with lists of all the goods and services they offer. The homes are to give these lists to their customers, but they aren’t supposed to offer packaged services and goods, meaning that customers can access individual products that they actually needed at the most reasonable prices.
- What amenities do they offer? Does the funeral home in question offer all the amenities that would be needed for the funeral and burial services? For instance, are there handicapped bathrooms or private holding rooms that can be used before the service?
- Are there cultural and religious considerations to keep in mind? Put another way, does the funeral director understand and take your cultural and religious needs seriously? Can they make preparations that meet your cultural and religious customs?
What was the first meeting with the funeral director like?
The first meeting with the funeral director, also known as the arrangement conference, is one of the crucial things that guides your decision to choose one funeral home and not the other. This meeting can take place either in person at the funeral home, over the phone, or even in your own home.
You don’t have to make any decisions during this meeting, since the purpose of the meeting is for you to learn and to get a sense of the home and the services they offer, even as you meet and learn about the funeral home’s director.
Some of the signs to look out for during this meeting lie more on the side of the director, and they have to do with the director being friendly, well-informed, compassionate, and courteous. And because you may end up having many questions and requests, this is the time to gauge the funeral director – they should be able to provide answers while listening attentively.
- Consult your family and decide on a budget
You have to consult with your family on financial matters, then come up with a budget that you all find aggregable. Discuss what amount is affordable to you, rather, the amount you’d be willing to spend without any hardships. Remember that shopping for an ideal funeral home is pretty much like any other major purchase you may make, which means that you must settle on an amount you can afford.
Don’t take the price by the funeral home, then start scrambling for money. Take some time and ask your loved ones the tough questions – the ones they may not want to face but have.
Ask about preferences for their final arrangements, and if you are making plans for a loved one who is still alive, ask if they have any written instructions or funeral homes they’ve made plans with, then look for the necessary documents before you go forward.
- Next, check the funeral rights.
For this, you need to get the prices – this can be done over the phone or a written list on an email or during your visit. Next, buy the products you really want/ need.
You could choose not to have embalming done, use alternative containers instead of the casket, give them an urn or casket to lower costs, and finally, you’d need a written statement once you’ve decided what you’d want to buy.
Regarding the funeral costs, there are three main types of costs, the basic services fee, charges for other services/ merchandise, and cash advances for things that the funeral home has to get from third-party vendors.
- Choose the type of arrangement.
There are three main types of funerals handled by funeral homes – the traditional or Full-Service Funeral, Direct Burial, and Direct Cremation.
With these options and the funeral practices of different people, cultural and religious traditions, personal preferences, and costs, the funeral homes in your area must be able to cater to your different needs easily.
Traditional or Full-Service Funerals – these are the most elaborate and also the most expensive funerals that can be planned by the funeral homes. They include viewing, visitation, as well as a formal funeral service along with the use of a hearse for the body’s transportation to the cemetery/ funeral site, the burial, cremation, or the entombment of the remains. It’s expensive, and some of the basic fees charged by the funeral home include dressing and embalming the body, as well as the rental, feels for the viewing, and use of the vehicles for transportation. It may also cover the cost of the casket and the crypt of the cemetery plot, along with other funeral products necessary.
Direct Burial – In this arrangement, the body would be buried shortly after death, often in a simple, biodegradable container. There is no visitation or viewing, and embalming is unnecessary. In such burials, there is a memorial service held either at the graveside or later on. As a result, this burial costs less than the traditional burial. Some of the costs involved here include care and transportation of the body, casket’s purchase, and the cost of the crypt or the cemetery plot. An additional fee for the graveside service may be charged.
Direct Cremation – This is the other option offered by funeral homes. In this arrangement, the body is cremated rather shortly after death, and there is no embalming done. The cremation remains are then placed in an urn. There is no viewing or visitation, and the remains could be kept at home, placed in a crypt, or buried, depending on the wishes of the deceased. With few steps involved, this arrangement costs less than the Full Traditional Burial.
The other options at your disposal may include:
- Choosing to donate the remains of the deceased to medical research
- Holding the funeral service at home
- A Green or natural burial done using natural biodegradable materials and without embalming or digging equipment
- Get a list and compare prices.
Now that you know what your options are, it’s time to get a list of services/ products offered by different homes. Then compare what they offer.
Also, it’s advisable to first check with your local Funeral Consumers Alliance just for a survey of the prices in your area to ensure that you have the best prices.
This comparison is important because there usually are huge differences in prices, and knowing what everyone else charges makes it easy for you to bargain, saving you several thousand dollars. You could save on cremation costs significantly if you work with a funeral home that provides cremation services.
For the best cost comparison, compare 5 or 6 homes and get their estimates on all the items you need. Don’t forget to run your comparison against your budget and eliminate unnecessary things if your finances are tight.
Beware of the Funeral Rule. This is the rule that requires all the funeral directors to give price details on the phone to all callers asking for the information. The funeral homes are also required to email the information if you ask them to.
- Narrow your choices
With an idea of what to expect from different funeral homes, it’s time to narrow down your choices. Check the funeral homes’ websites, ask around for experiences about the homes you are considering – and also take note of the online customer reviews. You could also check with the Funeral Consumers Alliance for complaints launched against any of the funeral homes you may be considering. Once you have all the necessary information about the funeral homes, focus on the top two or three contenders.
- Visit several funeral homes.
It’s not enough to look through lists, talk with the funeral home directors, and check with the FCA. You also must go to the funeral home physically to see if they really offer what they say they do and if the funeral home is actually a place you’d like to work with.
So, make an appointment to visit the funeral home as soon as possible, then bring with you’re a list of friends or family, especially the ones who are as emotionally invested as you are in the funeral. Once there, you can tell more about the funeral home and what they do, and how you will be helped.
Also, ask for their General Price List then review the items on the list with the director. Gauge the trustworthiness of the director and also see how helpful they are and how they answer seemingly sensitive questions. Also, read the room to check if they are sensitive to your values, religious, or cultural needs.
At the end of the day, you need to choose a funeral home that you are 100% comfortable dealing with.
- Personal Advocacy
At no point in the interview/ shopping process should you feel pressured into making any unwanted, unnecessary, or arrangements that you aren’t comfortable with? So, in as much as some people opt for cosmetology, embalming or viewing, or even wakes, you may not be into these, and all you may want may be a graveside service or even a direct cremation. The funeral home should abide by your preferences and never pressure you to add any unwanted services.
- Choose a funeral home.
Having reviewed all the information collected thoroughly, you now need to choose one funeral home. Choose the one that makes you feel more comfortable and confident.
Once settled, filled the funeral home’s requisite pre-need planning form. You’ll have to pay a deposit next if required. But don’t sign a contract for services that neither you nor your family can afford or have agreed on.
In case you are pre-arranging the funeral before your demise, don’t pay for the service before reading the FCA’s Prepayment guide.
Final step – put wishes into writing. This is important if you are pre-planning your funeral. Just be sure to inform your loved ones about your preferences and decisions while making them privy to the documentation or where they’d find it, mentioning to them the chosen funeral home.
Planning Your Own Funeral
Funeral Homes also offer guidance and services for individuals planning their own funerals. This is often seen as an extension service to will creation and estate planning.
To do this right, follow these tips:
Be specific with your funeral pre-need list and what exactly you’d like done upon your demise.
Put all your preferences in writing, and give copies of this document to your attorney and your family members. Your preferences shouldn’t be in your will because the will is often searched for or found after the funeral.
Prepayment. You may want to prepay as soon as possible, but don’t enter into that contract before you read the terms of the prepayment or are aware of the state laws regarding pre-payments and protections available.
Some of the things to consider before making a prepayment include:
- What exactly you are paying for
- What will happen to the money prepaid, as well as the interest income on the prepayment?
- If you are protected in case the funeral home goes out of business
- What will happen if you move and die away in a different area than where the funeral home is based?
- Or what happens if the contract is canceled? Will you get a full refund?
There is a long list of select funeral homes in your city, but the best funeral home for your money will always make all the necessary accommodations to help out your entire family through the hard emotional period you are going through. With experience dealing with various religions and practices and unique necessities, you shouldn’t struggle with the technicalities much. Just make sure that you know what they are charging for and that you can afford those services.