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Feature Article

Preparing a Funeral Service and What to Ask the Funeral Director

By Flora Richards-Gustafson

A funeral director should be a person who can provide support during times of great need by acting as an experienced source of guidance. As in any business, some funeral directors are more up front than others. Here are three questions to make sure you get the best service available, and at the best cost.

1. What services do you provide?
Since memorial homes are often family businesses, services offered vary by establishment. Look for directors that offer consolation and act as listeners, crisis managers, and tribute planners. Possible tasks for your funeral director include:

- Completing any necessary paperwork,
- Contacting physicians, florists, newspapers, and any other vendors,
- Attaining licenses and death certificates,
- Contacting family, friends, and solicitors,
- Coordinating the details of a funeral service or memorial services with clergy members, and
- Recommending local support groups and other sources of professional help.

Often, funeral directors’ most important role is taking care of the body. Be sure to ask your director what options are available for internment. These choices may include:

- Earth burial: one of the most popular forms of interment. This requires a cemetery plot and usually includes additional costs such as fees for opening and closing the grave.

- Aboveground Burial: this type of entombment requires purchasing a crypt within a mausoleum designed specifically for that purpose.

- Cremation: Cremation usually involves placing an urn in a columbarium. An urn could also be buried in a cemetery. If cremation is chosen, services such as visitation, the viewing of the body, a memorial service, and funeral service may still be conducted.

- Anatomical Gifts: Organs and tissues may be donated without interfering with the preparation of the body for funeral services. A funeral director should be able to guide one through this process.

2. What is the cost?
Funeral directors must provide the consumer with service prices over the phone and be able to provide the same in writing before any goods are shown. All costs associated with any services must be explained: no hidden fees are allowed. Before making any payments, see that all costs and services are in writing.

Directors should never be charge an extra fee for purchasing internment containers elsewhere. Additionally, they must go over all the options for disposition: cremation, embalming, direct burial, etc.

A funeral director can assist budgeting, arranging payment plans, and suggesting financial assistance options. Local funeral and memorial organizations can help point one to a reputable funeral home and may be even able to negotiate discount rates for those in need.

3. Why should I hire you?
Like any business owners, funeral directors should be able to tell you what sets them apart from their competitors. Also consider how much experience this person has acting as a director and what type of support staff is in place. Ask if the staff receives mandatory on-going training to ensure professional development.

No family should have to face the loss of a loved one uninformed and unprepared, and keeping the above questions in mind will help you find a funeral director that can provide valuable knowledge and expertise to help you and your loved ones through difficult times of loss.

~Flora Richards-Gustafson, 2009

About the Author: Valley of Life invites you to read more about finding a funeral director that will help you through the funeral planning process. After the funeral, find a way to celebrate your loved one's life on Valley of Life, a free memorial tribute site for family members and friends.

Sat Jan 31 2015

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