How to Choose a Funeral Home

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Selecting a funeral home is one of the biggest decisions in the funeral planning process. But it can also be intimidating and overwhelming, especially if your family doesn’t have a funeral home you’ve relied on in the past, or if you’re trying to research funeral homes in another city or state.

The first step is to understand that a funeral director and staff are responsible for far more than simply preparing the body for burial or cremation. They can:

  • coordinate with the hospital or hospice to transport the body to the funeral home
  • obtain death certificates on your behalf
  • place obituaries in local papers or host an obituary on their own site
  • print memorial materials and suggest videographers, if desired
  • set up the flowers and music for the actual service
  • organize the hearse and lead the funeral procession
  • officiate at the funeral home or graveside service, if requested
  • coordinate with the cemetery or crematorium (if not located on-site) for the body’s final disposition

In many ways, the funeral home should be a go-to resource throughout the entire funeral process. That makes finding a fitting partner all the more important. Here’s how to make the right choice:

Make a priority list

Whether planning your own funeral or that of a loved one, take time to think through what the ideal funeral would look like. You’ll need to find a funeral home that can accommodate your most important priorities, so putting them front and center before you start comparison shopping will save you significant time. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does it matter if the funeral home is religiously or culturally affiliated? If your family has strong ties to a particular religion or culture, finding a funeral home with experience in that arena will make the experience smoother.
  • Does the funeral home need to host additional events? Many funeral homes can arrange visitations, viewings, or even wakes, and have spacious social halls to accommodate crowds. If this is something that appeals to your family, make sure to include it on your list so you can inquire during initial phone calls.
  • If you’re planning a cremation, is it important to work with a funeral home that operates its own crematory on site? Any funeral director should be well-versed in making arrangements with nearby crematoriums, but some people prefer to transfer the body as little as possible and will seek out a funeral home with an on-site crematorium.
  • How close is the funeral home to the cemetery? If you know where your loved one wants to be buried, consider the travel time between the funeral home and cemetery—keeping in mind that most funeral processions drive more slowly than normal traffic.

If you’re arranging someone else’s funeral, ideally he or she shared the most important priorities in advance. But that’s not always the case: A 2017 survey found that 62 percent of consumers felt it was very important to communicate their funeral plans and wishes to family members prior to their own death, yet only 21 percent had done so. If you’re not sure what your loved one may have wanted, talk to close family members to make a collective decision.

Do some research

No one wants to spend hours—or even days—researching funeral homes. But resist the urge to pick the closest funeral home and call it done. Instead, ask close friends if they had any experiences they were particularly happy with. You can also check in with a religious leader for recommendations, review funeral homes’ online photos, and look at customer reviews. Browse funeral homes using our service finder:

Once you have a few places in mind, consider making phone calls. Funeral homes may urge you to come in for an in-person consult (often called an arrangement conference), and you should definitely visit your top choices. But in the beginning, the phone can be a faster and less emotionally taxing way to consider your options, using your list of priorities to whittle your list.

Set a budget

Having a sense of what costs are associated with funerals can help you enter any conversations with a budget in mind. It can feel awkward to discuss pricing, but this is one area where you’ll want to press funeral directors for specifics. The average funeral costs between $7,000 and $10,000. People who are hesitant to talk about their budget may wind up with packaged services that include things, like embalming or graveside viewing, that they don’t want or need.

The FTC’s funeral rule means every consumer is entitled to get price information on the phone and to get a written, itemized price list (which breaks down each good or service the funeral home will provide and its associated cost) when visiting in person. This makes it easier to compare costs between funeral homes, but only if you ask for prices to compare. Stories abound of people accepting the first price they’re quoted, and sometimes paying more than twice what’s charged at other nearby options.

Visit in person

Once you have your short list narrowed down to two solid choices, visit the funeral home in person (if possible). If emotions make this a hard task to complete, ask a friend to accompany you. During this visit, you’ll meet with the funeral director, check pricing based on your pre-determined budget, and make sure the facility can meet your needs and live up to the vision you have for this important day.

You’ll also want to get a sense of the funeral director’s demeanor. Remember, this will be the person you’ll be interacting with most for arranging the funeral and dealing with related logistics. Make sure that the person is answering questions directly and that you don’t feel rushed or dismissed if you have questions or concerns.

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