What does a funeral director do?
A good funeral director ensures the whole process runs smoothly and helps a family think through the implications of their choices. Many people have not arranged a funeral before, so it can be useful to have expert guidance to help you through the process. This support can be very comforting at a difficult and emotional time. The key services a funeral director provides are to:
- remove the body from the hospital or place of death, and look after it up to and on the day of the funeral
- dress the body
- help plan the ceremony
- supply coffin bearers, if required
- deal with the documentation to legally allow the cremation or burial to go ahead
- make sure everything happens at the right time, in the right place and with the right people present.
Many funeral directors also have funeral arrangers who meet everyone who comes into the premises, explain the choices available to families, and deal with the behind-the-scenes paperwork and telephone calls.
Choosing a funeral director
You should choose a funeral director that you feel comfortable with, and preferably who has been recommended to you. This is understandably a difficult time, but it’s worth contacting at least two companies so you can compare the service they offer and the costs. Given the circumstances, it’s often easier to do this by phone. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to stay with the first funeral director you chose, or a specific funeral director that may have been contracted by a hospital or care home to take care of the body.
When searching for a funeral director you could ask family, friends or local faith leaders for recommendations, which can be very helpful. If your loved one was in a care home, it may have a list of funeral directors that it’s had good experiences of in the past.
Try to choose a member of:
- the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD), or
- the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF).
They have codes of practice that their members should follow. In the unlikely event of wanting to make a complaint, the associations will also support you.
Some local authority trading standards have Buy with Confidence schemes, which funeral directors can join, showing their commitment to high standards.
Questions to ask a funeral director
- What's the simplest service you offer?
- What other services do you offer?
- What is the total price, with a breakdown of costs including funeral director fees and disbursements. And are there any third-party costs?
- Can we select from your choice of services and just pay for those?
- Can we buy a coffin from another source?
- Can we provide our own transport?
- Do we have to pay a deposit?
- When do we pay the bill?
- What are the timings for the funeral?
You may have something particular in mind that the funeral director hasn’t done before. They should be willing to discuss what you want and how they can make it happen for you.
It’s important to remember that the person who signs the papers at the funeral directors is responsible for paying for the funeral, so it’s wise to think about how you are going to fund the funeral prior to signing the contract. See our article on funeral paymenst to get an idea of costs and options for funding.
Arranging a funeral without a funeral director
If you don’t want to use a funeral director, you can organise a funeral yourself. Once you’ve chosen where the service is to take place, you’ll also need to liaise with them directly to talk about timings and costs. See cremation service or planning a burial for our advice on what to do, the forms to fill and who to contact. The Cemeteries and Crematorium department of your local council can help you arrange a cremation or burial.
The Natural Death Centre also gives advice on all aspects of a funeral, including choosing a funeral director, the practicalities of making your own arrangements and green burials.
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