The folk wisdom that the only two certainties in life are death and taxes has to be slightly amended today. Death is still a surety, but what befalls straightaway after death isn’t. Drive-in viewing of the dearly departed, a funeral chapel made full with camping gear rather than flowers, and caskets custom-made with green liner for golfers suggest new directions in the funeral director’s job of providing clients what they wish.
Though a few funeral customs are transforming, funeral directors still offer traditional services like preparing the body, assisting family and friends plan and hold a memorial service, offering practical advice and solace to mourners, disposing of the corpse, and dealing with the large amount of paperwork related with death.
From the tens of thousands of funeral directors in a country, only one in four is self-employed. The trend is off from the multigenerational family-owned business towards management by big corporations.
Although nearly no one likes to think of his or her own death or the death of a family member, it’s wise to make some fundamental decisions before a death actually occurs. It is virtually impossible to be a rational, informed consumer during tight time constraints and feeling great emotional distress.
Calling friends, clergy, and your attorney can give you a list of funeral directors who have a good reputation in the community. It is both prudent and sensible to note your choice of a funeral director and any other decisions you’ve made regarding your own death in writing and leave a transcript with your attorney or a family member, or in a safety deposit box where a family member has access.
The following step is simple: Go to at least two or three funeral homes and ask for a general price list and a coffin price list. In the US for example, since April 30, 1984, the Federal Trade Commission has compelled funeral providers to state prices on specific items in such a way that direct comparisons about funeral-service prices can be made. Moreover, by law, funeral providers should give this information to anybody who asks for it.
The Federal Trade Commission disallows funeral providers from embalming for a fee without permit; falsifying legal or cemetery requirements, such as compelling the purchase of a coffin if the body will be cremated; or demanding the purchase of some funeral services as a condition for rendering other services, like requiring you to pay for use of company-owned vehicles to transport family members to the gravesite if you want the body to be transported to the gravesite in a company-owned hearse.