Choosing the right funeral home

7 min read

How to select the right funeral home

  • Consider exactly what services you want and what your budget will be before you contact any homes.

  • Research the funeral homes in the area, and pay attention to rates and reputation.

  • Visit the ones you think fit your needs best, and make sure you see all prices up front, which they are legally required to give you.

  • Make the decision based on what you think your loved one would have wanted, above all else.

After someone you love passes away, one of the most pressing tasks is deciding whether you want to work with a funeral home and which one is best suited to you, your family, and your loved one. These immediate decisions can seem extra challenging as you navigate the early stages of grief, but your choice will really come down to a few simple factors. In your heart almost certainly you know what your loved one would have wanted, so take it one step at a time and trust your instincts.

Before you contact funeral homes

Communicate with your loved ones

Making rational decisions can feel impossible right now, but surrounding yourself with friends and family who understand what you are going through will go a long way. 

If you can, communicate with your family about funeral arrangements, and discuss with them what the budget should be for you to fittingly honor your loved one without encountering financial hardship. 

Understanding the estate’s financial capacities and what the family can afford to spend is a crucial first step in planning a funeral, as this will lead your conversations with funeral homes. Better to have a budget at the outset than to accept a funeral home’s rates and then struggle to make ends meet

Keep in mind that, since any expenses related to the funeral proceeding will typically be paid by your loved one’s estate, whatever budget you develop will come out of whatever you and your family eventually stand to inherit.

Alternatively, your loved one may have left specific instructions as to how much money they wanted to spend on their funeral; they may even have already prepaid for it. Look through any documents they left that may help determine what they wanted.

Make a list of priorities 

Planning a funeral involves a long list of logistics, but not all of them carry the same importance emotionally, financially, or personally. 

For example, would you prefer a funeral home close to where you and your family live? Or is it worth finding a funeral home close to a location that mattered to your loved one? Do you want a large event with many mourners in attendance, or something small with just immediate family?

You may also want to think about whether your priority is to honor every single one of your loved one’s wishes or whether it is more important for you and your family to organize a funeral with significance to you. This is a key consideration that will inform anything from location to the type of burial plot you will choose to the budget you will allot to the funeral. 

Choose the appropriate arrangements

If your loved one did not leave specific instructions about how they wanted their funeral proceedings to take place, weigh your options with your friends and family.

For instance, you may consider a cremation or green burial to be most in line with your loved one’s wishes or your family’s outlook. You might want a traditional funeral, or you might think a memorial service that is unconnected to the actual burial is best.

Consider writing down how you think your loved one would have wanted their funeral proceedings to occur. You can then bring this list to your funeral home visits and determine what is feasible and what is out of reach.

Know your rights

Being prepared with knowledge of your funeral rights is also an important part of the process. The Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule states that you have the right to: 

  • Receive pricing information over the telephone. 

  • Get an itemized price list during your visit to a funeral home.

  • Buy only what you need.

  • Decide whether you want embalming or not.

  • Choose an alternative container.

  • Provide your own casket or urn without incurring additional fees.

  • Receive a written statement itemizing everything you have chosen before paying.

Finding the right funeral home

Now that you have identified your priorities, budget, and preferred funeral arrangement, you are ready to start reaching out to funeral homes to see if their services and rates match what you are looking for and can do.

Do your research

Find the names of funeral homes in the area, either from members of the local community or online. It is a good idea to check with your local Funeral Consumers Alliance to see which funeral homes in your area meet your specific criteria. 

Read over each funeral home’s mission statement and history. This will give you a clear indication of their values and how they do business. Also look at their facilities and services. For instance, does the funeral home offer transportation, embalming, or cremation services? What kind of equipment do they use? Is the space itself adaptable to your needs and religious inclinations? 

Price points for one service may differ significantly from one funeral home to another; drawing up a list of local funeral homes and comparing their rates could save you thousands of dollars. 

Once you have established a list of suitable funeral homes, also check online to see if any of them have received any complaints. You want to go with a reputable funeral home, not one where you may run into difficulty down the line.

You may also want to call any friends and family in the area to see if they have had any experiences with the funeral homes on your list. Personal recommendations are the best way to determine what you are looking for. 

Pick up the phone

Getting on the phone with the funeral homes on your list can help you cross off those that do not meet your expectations. 

Drawing up a list of local funeral homes and comparing their rates could save you thousands of dollars. 

When you call each funeral home, make sure to ask specific questions about rates and values. The funeral director might not have the compassion you are looking for or might not appear to have your best interests at heart. A simple phone conversation can give you basic impressions that can help guide your decision-making. 

Schedule a visit

After you determine which of the funeral homes on your list seem the best for your needs, ask to schedule a visit. You may want to bring a close friend or relative who is less emotionally invested than you are. They will provide a more objective perspective and help you make the appropriate decision. 

When you arrive at the funeral home, ask the director for their General Price List, keeping in mind the rights guaranteed you by the FTC. After you have toured the facilities and seen what they offer, you can review the Price List with them and see if their pricing and transparency match your expectations. Make sure the funeral director is willing and able to create a funeral arrangement that is personalized to you and your loved one, not just part of a standard package they offer. 

After your visit, discuss whether the funeral home would work for you with the person who accompanied you. For instance, did the funeral director seem receptive to your concerns, grief, and expectations? Did they seem trustworthy? How was the customer service? Did their staff seem authentic and caring? It is always useful to watch the interactions of the staff with one another, not just how they treated you.

Never select a funeral home that makes you even slightly uncomfortable. You want your funeral home to make this process easier for you, not more complicated. 

Finally, review the itemized price list the funeral director gave you and discuss it with your family. If you and your family feel comfortable about the funeral home, its rates, and its services, get back in touch with them and finalize the agreement. 

Choosing the right funeral home is very important to ensuring that you give your loved one the sendoff that will best honor them and their life. Partnering with the right funeral home allows you and your family to properly process your grief and memorialize the person you loved. They will be your hosts and guides through this complicated process, so be deliberate and careful in your decision and stay honest about what you need and expect ●