Funeral PlanningFuneralsHow to Plan a Funeral: The Top Questions to Ask a Funeral Director

December 23, 2019Obitia
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During one of life’s most difficult times, dealing with the loss of a loved one, the funeral director at a funeral home is the person many turn to for help through this journey.

If you’re able to find a trusted funeral home, something wonderful happens. They treat your family member as reverently as one of their own. They calmly and peacefully walk you through a process you’ve never experienced before, but once they walk through daily. Staff members will help you consider options that may not have crossed your mind, like how to post an obituary or how to secure a plot of land in a local cemetery.

If this is your first time planning a funeral and working with a funeral home, the more information you have before speaking with a funeral director the more you’ll feel like you can trust the information you are given. As you reach out to potential funeral homes, keep in mind that you do not have to agree or commit to anything you do not feel comfortable with.

Here are five questions, and general information to keep in mind, as you research different funeral homes to find the right one for you and your family.

 

1. What’s Your Basic Service Fee?

Funeral homes typically apply a basic service fee. It can also be annotated in the paperwork as a “non-declinable basic service fee.” The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has legalized this fee, allowing all funeral providers to charge it. And, although that sounds favorable to the funeral home, it also provides a great deal of protection for you, too. Here are some of the rights you, as the consumer, are granted:

  • The ability to purchase only the funeral arrangements you desire. For example, you have the right to buy your casket elsewhere.
  • The ability to secure pricing information over the phone (and you don’t have to provide your name, address, or telephone number).
  • The ability to receive an itemized price list when you visit in-person.
  • The right to receive a written statement before you make any payments.

So, do keep an eye out for this service fee. Most funeral homes will charge it, but it also grants you a number of important protections, as well.

 

2. What Does Your Basic Service Fee Include?

Once you understand that this basic fee will probably be charged, ask them what, specifically, it covers. Here are some of the basics that should be included:

  • Funeral planning costs
  • Death certificates
  • Any required permits
  • Coordination with the cemetery or crematory

 

3. What Will the Other Services Cost?

With these bare essentials out of the way, it’s time to consider a wealth of other options. These services are optional and will depend on your specific needs and budget. Here are some of the other services to consider:

  • Embalming
  • The purchase of a casket
  • A memorial service at their funeral home
  • The use of a hearse
  • Transportation of the remains to the cemetery
  • Provision of staff during the transportation and graveside service
  • Cost of cremation
  • An urn for the remains

 

4. Do You Require Cash Advances?

A cash advance is money you pay in advance to the funeral home to cover charges for certain items or services that the funeral home will obtain on your behalf from third-party vendors, such as:

  • Ordering flowers
  • Writing and posting the obituary
  • Contacting the clergy or officiant
  • Arranging for organists and/or soloists

Keep in mind that many of these cash advances will be buffered with a markup. But, again, these are details that some families don’t want to be “bothered” with when they have so many other logistics to coordinate. If you think selecting the flowers might be a calming activity, then you can certainly order your own and have them sent to the funeral home. We have an online flower shop to help you browse floral arrangements, select the ones that speak to you, and have them sent directly to the funeral home (or address of your choosing) from a local florist (same day delivery available in some cases).

 

5. May I Review the Itemized Statement?

After you’ve discussed the basic service fee, other services, and required cash advances, it’s time to see it all in writing. Do not sign any documentation and do not agree to any services without taking a fine-tooth comb to the itemized statement. It must provide the total cost of all funeral home goods and services. The one thing they may not be able to provide with accuracy is the cost of those cash advances. Flowers may cost one price one day and a different price another day, for example. However, they should provide you with a good faith estimate. When the time comes, you’ll want to hold them to this good faith estimate. If you’ve read all the reviews for the funeral home, then you’ll have a good sense if you can take them at their word. When you use our funeral home search, you’ll see each funeral home’s detailed price list as well as their Google reviews and Obitia user reviews. This is a wonderful starting point to start comparing, based on location, price point, and customer satisfaction.

 

How to Plan a Funeral with Peace of Mind

If you’re nervous or anxious about planning a funeral, know that it can be done peaceably. We hope you’ll make use of our funeral home search, with price estimating tool, to locate at least two or three funeral homes in your area. Review their price list. Check out the things people have to say about their experience there and add the above five questions to ask the funeral director to your funeral planning checklist. Whether you desire basic funeral services, or something more extravagant, we have all the resources you need before you pick up the phone to begin. The information you start with the better you’ll feel with the decisions you’ll be making.

 


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