How do I go about finding a funeral director?

10 answers | Last updated: Dec 16, 2013
Gee asked...

Currently I am not affiliated with a church in this new city. How do I go about finding a funeral director now, and paying for burial and cremation?

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

You are wise to do some planning for the expense that too many people overlook: the high cost of dying. Making some arrangements for it now can not only help assure you will have the most fitting treatment at your death, it can also be a huge relief for your survivors. Looking around now for end of life goods and services will also allow you to make decisions about them more sensibly and coolly, as opposed to requiring someone else to do it for you while they are both feeling emotionally vulnerable and pressed for time,

The type of arrangements you choose -- and the people or organizations you choose to provide them, depend on many factors: what's available in your locale, your religious and personal preferences, custom or tradition, and cost.

But even for those savvy enough to think about such matters in advance, a word to the wise is usually: Preplan, but don't prepay to avoid potential pitfalls. For example, a mortuary may go out of business, leaving a prepaid customer without recourse. Or you  may move to a new locale again before dying -- and then find that the funds paid in advance are not refundable, or that there is a substantial penalty for getting them back. And finally, money you pay now for funeral services may not keep up with inflation rates, leaving you and other survivors to foot the bill. If you do decide to enter into a prepayment arrangement, be sure contingencies are addressed.

An alternate source for help are funeral or memorial societies -- nonprofit consumer groups that help them find local mortuaries committed to dealing honestly with survivors and to charging prices that accurately reflect the value of their services.

To find a funeral or memorial society near you, and for more information on organizations that provide for final goods and services, see this list of resources for end-of-life arrangements.

Community Answers

Mgg34 answered...

A reputable funeral home will not keep the pre paid monies in their own accounts, they will use either a trust company or insurance to make sure the consumer can get their money back, if they move out of the area, or if the funeral home does happen to go out of business, also, the money is refundable upon request of the purchaser.

Rob answered...

 All of it sounds like good advice.

We are currently dealing with a local funreral home (in the Boston area) to make the arrangements for an elederly woman who is near the end, and in hospice. The local funeral director is in touch with one in New Orleans, where burial will take place. The casket is flown down there, the N.O. director calls the rabbi to do a graveside service, etc. I thought this info might be helpful so sombody along the way. 

On locating a local fineral director in your town, why not do a quick scan of the obituaries for mention of where visiting hours are held - see which funeral homes seem to be most used.


A fellow caregiver answered...

I dealt with a similar issue, though not exactly. My mom lived with me in North Carolina, however, her wish was to be buried beside my father in Georgia. I asked a few business associates for names of funeral directors, contacted each of them telling them my intention was to gather information to pre-plan my mother's funeral service. Each was glad to provide detailed price lists to me that I could compare services and expenses, association memberships, etc. I was even able to make a few phone calls after receiving information and eliminate some of the choices while actually visiting, in advance, one or two final choices before making a decision as to who would handle the arrangements locally and how the transportation to Georgia would be handled. I gleaned a lot of information by talking to more than one source. It took a little time, but mom's service was exactly what she would have wanted, and I was able to save thousands of dollars by doing just a little advanced leg work and planning. Hope you find this information helpful.

Tantralite answered...

My family have all joined a website called This site allows you to set out all of your own wishes and desires for your own funeral & invite people to have access to this 'wish list'. It is a very morbid topic and not something that easily arises in conversation. This site is brilliant, because it allows you to do it in your own time and constantly change any components anytime you want (if you change your mind for example). You can even list who you do and do not want to be invited to your funeral! Pretty much every aspect is covered and because you can invite your friends and family to have access to your wishes, it eliminates any chance of family fighting if/when the time comes to arrange your funeral.

Our family had major problems when Grandma died (family bickering), so when one of my sisters found this website, we all decided to join and use it. And yes, you can even nominate the funeral home that you want to use - so it removes the uncertainty and difficult decision making left to your family.

Rebekah peoples answered...

There are funeral home associations that can recommend a good funeral home. One of them, Selected Independent Funeral Homes, seems to have member funeral homes that are more progressive and more customer-oriented than others. You can find a member near you from their website. As for prepaying for funeral expenses ahead of time, funeral homes are required BY LAW to deposit the money in a separate account. This is usually in a trust account or an insurance policy or annuity and serves to protect you if something happens to their business. Be sure to ask the funeral home for documentation with your account number and information to ensure that they followed the law. This money can be transferred to a different funeral home if you decide to change for any reason. If it's because you choose to use a funeral home in a different city or state, the original funeral home will usually transfer the money without keeping a portion for administrative fees. This is only the case in some states, while other states do not allow an administrative fee to be retained by the funeral home at all. Hope this helps; it's nice that you're making these important decisions ahead of time.

Erikawa answered...

Tantralite - unfortunately, all I could find were adult websites connected to that email address. Too bad, since it sounds like a good tool.

Us funerals online answered...

For a FREE directory of all funeral homes in the US visit US Funerals Online[]. Funeral homes are listed by state/city and then in zip code order, making it easy to locate your nearest funeral home.

US Funerals Online is also a consumer guide and death care resource portal, with information about saving costs on a funeral, how to order a casket online, and how to understand funeral etiquette.

Layo37 answered...

Another way to save on funeral costs is to pre-buy a casket at wholesale prices. I did this for my husband. The law says that one is not obligated to buy a casket from the funeral home. You may buy one in advance. When my husband passed away in 2010, I went to the funeral home to arrange his funeral. The director started showing me different kinds of caskets, but I TOLD HIM I HAD MY OWN. HE WAS UPSET BY THIS AND TRIED TO RESIST, WHEN I REMINDED HIM ABOUT THE LAW. SO, I BOUGHT A GREAT CASKET FOR MY HUSBAND AT WHOLESALE PRICE! I FORGOT THE WEB SITE,BUT I'M SURE IF YOU SEARCH UNDER "WHOLE SALE CASKETS" YOU WILL FIND WHAT YOU NEED. MY COMPANY KEPT IT FOR ME IN THEIR WareHOUSE UNTIL MY HUSBAND PASSED AWAY. SORRY I CAN'T GIVE MORE INFO FOR THE WEBSITE.

Us funerals online answered...

If the cost of the funeral is a real concern, you can try DFS MEMORIALS[] . All their affiliated funeral providers are local Mom & Pop funeral businesses that guarantee to offer an "affordable funeral option". The price that each funeral home offer for a basic cremation is clearly presented on their web site, so you can find out before you call what they charge. All their providers offer a basic cremation for between $495 and $1,395.