Select a funeral home
While people sometimes pre-plan elements of their own funeral, as an estate executor you will likely be asked to help in executing the funeral. The first step will be finding a funeral home that can meet the needs of the deceased and his/her survivors and make the process simple. Ideally, the funeral home needs to be the first one helping you and the deceased’s loved ones.
Everything should go through the funeral home first and then they can direct services as the “funeral director” name suggests. Letting the funeral director confirm everything from clergy to cemetery burial will not only ensure that each necessary detail of the funeral service is handled, but also simplify the process for you and the deceased’s loved ones. The following are some things to consider before signing an agreement with a funeral director.
Contact Funeral Homes for Information
Most funeral homes have staff on-call 24 hours a day so they can be there for you when you need them. This also can save you time in that you can get questions answered over the phone versus having to visit the home in person. The Federal Trade Commission requires funeral directors to have a general pricing list for services and merchandise, such as caskets and vaults. The commission also requires funeral directors to provide this information over the phone and give a printed copy to you when you visit the home. Please note if you call during certain hours of the day you might need to leave a message with an answering service. They will then typically contact the funeral director immediately and you should hear back promptly. Funeral homes also welcome visits, however you will want to call to make an appointment so that staff is available to give you their uninterrupted attention and aren’t hosting a service.
Consider the Facility Itself
When considering a funeral home, you want to factor in any special wants or needs of the deceased or family and friends. Is the facility comfortable, clean and welcoming? You might want to consider how many people will attend a visitation and what size crowd the home can accommodate. Consider whether visitors might only stop for a few minutes or whether they are likely to stay. Is there ample space inside? Are chairs available if needed? Is there ample parking at the home? Is it accessible to those with disabilities? Perhaps the family will wish to have a private area to step away occasionally. Or they might wish to have a receiving line to welcome mourners, display pictures, and/or show a video in honor of their lost loved one. You will want to check to make sure the configuration of the funeral home can meet your needs.
Today, more funeral homes also are adding community rooms or reception areas for meals after services. However, in many cases, a funeral home will not permit food and drink inside in order to keep the facility clean and free of food-related odors and spills. Regardless, many of the deceased’s loved ones might find it helpful and more rejuvenating to leave the funeral home during any breaks between services.
Check on Range of Services Offered, Needed
One thing to consider is how much or how little you need the funeral home and director to handle. Maybe you only wish for them to manage the visitation and you or other loved ones will handle making burial arrangements or the spreading of the deceased’s cremated remains in a special place. Perhaps you would prefer they also help you craft a written obituary notice for newspapers or arrange for a headstone to be ordered and placed at the grave. You also might need to have help arranging for the deceased’s remains to be transported by plane, if the person died in another town or state. Funeral directors can explain what they can do to assist you and you can select whichever tasks you would like them to handle. Remember, however, if you make any plans on your own to share these with the funeral director so they can confirm them and ensure everything is in place for a smooth funeral process and services and expenses are not duplicated.
Check on Styles of Funerals Offered
These days, most funeral homes can handle traditional funerals with burial as well as cremations. But there are other options to consider, as well. Some people might wish to not be embalmed, if possible. Can the funeral home accommodate that wish? Another consideration is whether the funeral home can meet the religious and/or cultural needs of the deceased. In some faiths and cultures, the deceased’s body needs to be handled in a particular way or within a specific time frame. Can the funeral home meet these requirements and do they have experience doing so?
Others today wish to have what is called a “green” funeral. Green burial calls for there to be less impact on the environment. This is accomplished by not embalming the deceased – or using non-toxic chemicals to do so – and selecting caskets, shrouds, and urns that are made of materials that biodegrade quickly, rather than, for example, metals and concrete. Funeral homes can be certified to handle green burials, so that’s a question to ask if that is the type of burial that is desired.
If the deceased served in the armed forces, you might want to ask about special proceedings to honor this service. By law, eligible veterans can be buried with military honors at no cost. An honor guard detail of at least two members of the Armed Forces will, at a minimum, perform a ceremony that includes the playing of “Taps” and the folding and presenting of an American flag to the next of kin.
Consider Price of Service and Products
Funerals typically involve significant expense. According to U.S. government statistics, a traditional burial, including a casket and vault, costs, on average, about $7,000. Costs will vary by state and region of the country. When you add in potential additional expenses, such as newspaper notices, flowers, and higher-end urns and caskets, the costs can be higher. The Federal Trade Commission requires funeral directors to have a general pricing list for their services and the merchandise they have available, such as caskets and vaults. The commission requires funeral directors to provide a printed copy of prices and fees to you when you visit the home, so you will have a basic idea of costs.
Keep in mind, however, most funeral homes offer a variety of options. While no one wants to put a dollar amount on something as meaningful as funeral arrangements, it is important to consider costs and create a comprehensive budget. With that, a funeral director can help you prioritize needs and choose the best options. Remember that while you might not want to talk about costs upfront, or even feel it is in poor taste to do so, funeral directors are operating a business and want to make sure that your funeral plans are within your budget.
When it comes to costs, some will be fixed and others variable, depending on the options selected. Laws regulate much of what a funeral director does, such as in what manner the deceased’s body is transported, so these fees can be fixed. But other services, such as the duration of visitation hours or the number of “in memory of” cards printed, also create some flexibility in pricing.
There is also the cost of products to consider. With a traditional burial, you’ll potentially be purchasing a casket, a vault, a cemetery plot, grave marker or headstone. These can be costly so you’ll want to think about what your priorities are if money is limited.
Check on Payment Options
Often money might not be immediately available and tied up in the estate. You will want to check with a funeral director to see what payment options exist. In some cases payment plans might exist, or partial payments permitted until an estate is settled. Or perhaps a family member can cover costs immediately and later be reimbursed by the estate, when it is settled. Determining this upfront can ensure you meet the financial obligations without stress.
Don’t be Shy about Making Unusual Requests
Finally, don’t be embarrassed to make what might seem like an unusual request. While many of us will opt for traditional services, you should not hesitate to ask for exactly what the deceased or survivors want. Most funeral directors will try to meet your needs. Maybe loved ones want the deceased’s favorite song performed, or perhaps to have a balloon release, or even a picnic, at the grave site. Funeral directors have typically heard many unusual requests and will be generally unfazed by yours.