There are many important decisions that need to be made as soon as possible following the death of a loved one. A funeral service professional can provide invaluable guidance when planning your loved one’s funeral or memorial service, as well as their final resting place.
Most funeral service professionals provide grieving families with much needed support and carry out families’ wishes with great skill and sensitivity. However, there are troubling stories of families who feel as though they made the wrong choice.
This article will provide you with 5 simple steps for selecting a funeral service professional that is reputable, knowledgeable, patient, and will listen to your input.
The goal is to find a funeral service provider that will support you and your family during a difficult time and help you create a service that truly celebrates the life and legacy of your loved one.
Step 1: Decide Your Selection Criteria
Before you start looking for a funeral service professional, you need to take time to consider what specific requirements you are looking for in a funeral home. Issues to consider include:
What city or town will the funeral service be held in? (The answer to this question will narrow down the funeral service professionals to consider by geographical location.)
What were your loved ones’ wishes for the funeral service and burial? (For example, if your loved one wished to be cremated, you should focus on finding a funeral home that specializes in cremation. You need to consider if it is important to you that the funeral home own and operate its own crematorium.)
Do you want to only work with a funeral home that operates its own cemetery?
Do you want to only work with a funeral home that has a particular religious or cultural affiliation?
Do you only want to work with an all-service funeral home?
It is important to consider these questions in order to narrow down your search results. Doing so will make it easier to select a funeral service professional that it a good match with your needs.
Step 2: Talk to Family and Friends
If you have family and friends that live in the area where the funeral service will be held, ask them for any recommendations they may have in relation to funeral homes and funeral directors.
Have they organized a funeral themselves and were they happy with the service they received? Or have they attended a funeral service that was well coordinated?
Even if you receive recommendations from people you trust, you will still need to do the next step (which is to conduct research). You need to make sure that the funeral home that was recommended to you provides the specific services you are looking for.
You also need to make sure that it is still operated by the same owners, because even if the funeral home still has the same name, it may now be under different management.
If the recommendation you received was for a particular funeral director, you will also need to check if he or she still works at that funeral home.
Step 3: Research Local Funeral Homes
With the Internet, research is easy to do. First, determine the funeral homes’ location and services, (as well as any cultural and religious affiliations, if this is important to you).
Next, research customer reviews. Does the funeral home generally have positive reviews, or are their reviews consistently negative?
Has the funeral home posted any articles or videos that are helpful for funeral planning? Reviewing helpful content produced by a funeral home will reassure you that you would be hiring the best funeral service professional in the field.
You should also ensure that the funeral home is a member of industry associations, for example, the Ontario Funeral Service Association or the Funeral Service Association of Canada. To be a member of professional associations, funeral homes usually must adhere to a strict code of ethics.
Once you have found a few funeral homes that are suitable according to the criteria you developed in step 1, check the business name in the online database of the consumer protection bureau of your state or province.
You may need to check the funeral home’s website to find the registered business name, which may be different to the name that the funeral home uses to promote itself.
For example, Smith Brown Funeral Home might, in fact, be owned and operated by Large Funeral Corporation Inc. (Many funeral homes that were once family-owned have been sold to large corporations, meaning that you might need to do some sleuthing to get the correct business name for your consumer protection bureau check.)
The consumer protection bureau will be able to tell you how many complaints have been made about a particular business, and if they have been resolved.
Step 4: Visit the Funeral Homes on Your Short List
After you have finished steps 1 to 3, you should have a short list of no more than 3 funeral homes.
Before you make your final decision about which funeral service professional to work with, you should meet with the professional at the funeral home, as well as tour the funeral home’s facilities.
It is a good idea to take a trusted friend with you, particularly somebody that did not know the deceased. He or she will not be consumed with grief and, therefore, will be able to help you objectively assess the information you receive during your funeral home visits.
During your visit at each funeral home on your short list, you need to assess:
- Your comfort level with the funeral service professional: When you call to make an appointment, ask the receptionist to book the appointment with the funeral service professional at the funeral home that will actually be handling your loved one’s body and funeral service.
During your meeting with him or her, assess how comfortable you feel speaking with him or her. Is he or she caring, attentive, cooperative and knowledgeable? Remember, you need to be able to trust the funeral service professional you select as he or she will be helping you make important decisions.
Listen to your intuition and go with the funeral service professional that makes you feel most comfortable.
- What kind of services the funeral home provides? Even after all the research you conducted in step 3, you may still have questions about the funeral home and the services they offer. Before you visit with the funeral service professional, write a list of questions to take with you.
The services provided by funeral homes fall within 4 main categories:
- Body preparation: This covers transporting the deceased to the funeral home, embalming, dressing the deceased and applying makeup.
- Event planning: Your funeral service professional essentially takes care of all the details related to hosting a funeral or memorial service. This includes working with other vendors, like florists and caterers, to ensure that the ceremony is special and unique as your loved one.
- Burial or scattering: Your funeral service professional will carry out your wishes with respect to your loved one’s body and final resting place. For example, he or she will help you understand a cemetery’s by-laws, or give you advice on where ashes can legally be scattered.
- Government paperwork: Some funeral homes are prepared to help you, at no extra charge, with post-death paperwork related to government benefits and pensions.
- The quality of the facilities on offer: If you are planning to have a visitation before the funeral service, or a reception afterwards, does the funeral home have a room big enough to accommodate the number of people you expect will attend? Is the room in good repair and clean? Is it comfortable and tastefully decorated? Does it have adequate seating for elderly relatives? Is it wheel chair accessible? How many washrooms does it have, and are they clean and easily accessible? Does the funeral home have adequate parking?
- Pricing: During your meeting with the funeral service professional, he or she will want to know what types of services you and your family want to purchase. You should ask questions about the associated costs. As with any large purchase, it is a good idea to ask for a written quote, so there can be no misunderstanding on the services that will be provided and the associated costs.
After you have meet with all the funeral homes on your short-list, you can review the quotes you obtained. You should not, however, make a decision based purely on the quote.
You should take other factors into account, including your level of comfort with the funeral director, and the quality of the funeral home’s facilities.
While one funeral home may look like it’s offering a “better deal” on paper, another (more seemingly expensive) funeral home may, in fact, be offering you “better value”.
For example, they may send more than one funeral service professional to assist at the funeral or memorial service. Or, they may offer help with completing necessary government paperwork at no extra charge.
Step 5: Choose a Professional and Start Planning the Funeral Service
After you have completed all the previous steps, it is time to choose a funeral service professional to work with. You should note that he or she will ask you to complete a service agreement, which formally acknowledges that you have chosen him or her to act on your behalf.
Choosing a funeral home is the first of many decisions you and your family will have to make. But with the right funeral service professional guiding you and your family, you will have the support you need to organize a funeral service that honours your loved one.