29 Insider Hacks and Little Known Facts
The best time to choose a funeral director is long before you need one
Organizing a funeral isn't the most enjoyable thing you'll ever do, but sooner or later all of us will need a fond farewell. While most funeral directors are thoroughly decent professionals who aren't out to rip you off, unethical undertakers who are all too eager to overcharge for their services do exist unfortunately, so it pays to know their secrets. We've collected 29 insider hacks and little-known facts that funeral directors tend to keep quiet about.
1. Insider tips
If it's feasible, planning the funeral well in advance is highly advisable. Take the time to shop around, compare quotes and properly organize a fitting ceremony that won't leave you in debt. Plus, you'll be feeling less emotional and more capable to negotiate.
2. DIY home funerals are legal in most jurisdictions
It may surprise you but it is legal in the vast majority of US states as well as most western countries to skip the services of a funeral director and opt for a budget home funeral, an increasingly popular alternative.
3. A direct disposal funeral can be the most affordable option
In a direct disposal funeral, the body is collected from the mortuary, placed in a van and taken immediately to be buried or cremated without ceremony. A cost-effective option that isn't as clinical as it sounds, family and friends are free of course to organize a DIY memorial afterwards.
4. You might be able to bury your loved one in your garden
Private burials, in a garden or elsewhere, are legal in most jurisdictions. There are some restrictions however, which include burying the body away from any sources of water, and it's worth noting that the property may he harder to sell in the future if there's a body buried in the yard.
5. Funeral services comparison websites now exist
Figuring out the best deal has never been easier, thanks to the new crop of funeral services comparison sites. You just have to do a simple internet search and several should pop up on your screen.
6. Funeral packages may include services you do not require
Standard pre-paid deals and insurance plans do not cover third-party costs such as organist fees, grave-digging bills and physician charges. Make sure you read the small print before you sign on the dotted line.
7. Many funeral directors are open to negotiation
It isn't tacky to negotiate. Prices aren't fixed and you might be able to reduce the costs of the funeral by asking the undertaker for a discount, especially on any extra services you select.
8. If you shop around for the casket, you could save a fortune
While some funeral directors only make a modest profit on caskets, others may mark them up by a staggering 200% or even more. Shopping around on and offline for the best deal may save you a tidy sum of money.
9. Going green isn't always cheaper
Eco-friendly caskets shouldn't be expensive but even so they tend to be on the pricey side. Believe it or not, simple cardboard versions can cost three times as much as basic traditional wooden caskets, presumably because they're fashionable right now.
10. Costly sealed or solid metal caskets won't preserve the body
Though sealed caskets can keep out the elements and help slow down the rate of decomposition, the body will decay eventually – even if the casket is made from solid stainless steel or a similar tough metal.
11. You can house the body in a shroud instead of a coffin
It is not a legal requirement that a casket, cardboard, wooden or otherwise, must be used to house a dead body. Why not go natural and consider a perfumed shroud instead? It makes for a more environmentally sound option.
12. Embalming is rarely a legal requirement
Many people think embalming is mandatory for hygiene reasons but contrary to what some morticians might imply, it is not a legal requirement for a body to be embalmed, with only a few rare exceptions
13. Embalming chemicals are highly toxic
You might want to bear in mind that the chemicals used in embalming are based on formaldehyde, which is highly toxic and can contaminate surrounding soil and groundwater after the body has been buried.
14. The body may not necessarily be kept at the funeral home
If the funeral home lacks refrigeration facilities for example, the body may be kept in a large hub mortuary which might be located far away from the home. Check with the funeral director if you're uncomfortable with this.
15. A morning funeral may cost less than an afternoon ceremony
Different time slots can command different prices and as morning is considered 'off-peak', some funeral directors may offer you a reduced rate if you choose to conduct the funeral before noon, especially if business is slow.
16. Not every funeral director belongs to a professional association
Checking the funeral home is affiliated to or has membership of a professional association is always a wise move – you'll get improved protection and redress if you're not satisfied with the service provided.
17. The major funeral home chains do not necessarily offer the best service
You might think that the larger companies would provide a more professional and cost-effective service than independent 'mom-and-pop' funeral homes. In fact, many smaller firms offer a more personal service and better value for money.
18. Ex-servicemen and women may qualify for financial assistance
Former members of the armed forces and even their spouses in some cases may be eligible for financial assistance with funeral arrangements from the government and charitable organizations, depending on their individual circumstances.
19. The government might help foot the bill
If the deceased was receiving welfare benefits or there is no family member who is able or willing to contribute, they may quality for financial assistance to help towards or even cover the costs of the funeral.
20. Guilt-trip sales pitches are best-ignored
In an effort to make you go premium and splurge, unscrupulous funeral directors may tug on your heartstrings and say things like, “I'm sure you only want the very best for loved one, why not consider our finest deluxe casket?” Try not to fall for it.
21. You can bring a friend along to do the talking
When you're in the throes of grief, getting the best deal will probably be the last thing on your mind. If you can, bring a friend along to the funeral director's – ideally somebody who doesn't know the deceased and who isn't feeling emotional. Your friend can organise and negotiate with staff on your behalf.
22. Funeral directors aren't always right
Your funeral director may boast years of experience and bundles of compassion but family and friends always have the deceased's best interests at heart. Don't be afraid to question anything you're unsure about and request changes if necessary.
23. You shouldn't feel pressured to order flowers via the funeral director
Shopping around for a reputable value for money florist is the way forward here. You don't have to go with the preferred florist. Funeral directors tend to get a cut, which pushes up the price of any wreaths or arrangements.
24. You can maximize the funeral budget by asking family or friends to act as pallbearers
Hiring half a dozen pallbearers can inflate the overall cost of a funeral. Why not ask friends and family to bear the casket instead? This makes for a touching tribute to the deceased and will help trim the budget.
25. You don't have to hire a flashy high-end hearse
A lot of funeral directors have simpler, less pricey options that you may have to ask about – don't assume you have to rent the first luxury hearse offered to you, in fact, you could even use a large family station wagon or minivan.
26. You can bypass the funeral director and hire or use your own cars
The limos the funeral director suggests may not represent the best value for money. Compare luxury car hire businesses online in your neighborhood and look for the most wallet-friendly deal. Or, if you want to save even more cash, ask mourners to use their own vehicles.
27. Ordering the memorial directly from a stonemason firm should save you cash
You don't have to go through the funeral director to order your loved one's memorial plaque or headstone, which might include a hefty mark-up – sourcing it directly from a stonemason may be a cheaper option.
28. You can complain to an official association if you're not satisfied
If you're unhappy in any way about the service you have received from the funeral director, you can file a formal complaint with an official funeral home association or consumer protection organization.
29. You can actually hire people to tend the grave
Another something your funeral director may not tell you, there are companies out there that can send teams of people periodically to weed the ground, clean the memorial stone and replace wilted floral displays, at a cost of course.