Choosing a Funeral Director
April 7, 2018
If you are arranging a funeral, you are in charge. The person who has died is your responsibility. By law you must do certain things which a funeral director is not allowed to do. You must register the death. You must apply for cremation or burial. You must see it all through and you must demonstrate that you did.
Funeral directors undertake to do those other jobs, and only those other jobs, that you are allowed to delegate to them. That’s why they are called undertakers.
What needs to be done?
When someone dies their body must be looked after until it can be transported and, to use the ‘official’ word, disposed of by burial or cremation. There is paperwork attached to this. You do not have to hold a funeral. If you don’t want to have one, find out about direct cremation below.
You can engage a funeral director to do all or some of these jobs for you.
A funeral director will be able to put you in touch with other service providers – a celebrant, a florist, a caterer. A funeral director is also allowed to do a certain amount of paperwork for you and pay certain bills (disbursements, they call them) on your behalf. These include fees to doctors, celebrant, organist, and crematorium or burial ground.
Remember: funeral directors are in business to make money. Treat the transaction the same as you would that with any service provider. Check all terms and conditions carefully. You are protected by consumer protection laws.
The right funeral director for you
A funeral director is, basically, an event organizer. A really good funeral director will guide you through unfamiliar territory, make suggestions and help you create a send-off for the person who has died which will be, both, worthy of that person and, also, of immeasurable emotional value to you. Of all the services a funeral director offers, this is the one with far and away the highest value. Some are brilliant at it.
In addition, an undertaker will be able to put you in touch with other service providers – a celebrant, a florist, a caterer. He or she is allowed to do a certain amount of paperwork for you and pay certain bills (disbursements, they call them) on your behalf. These include fees to doctors, celebrant, organist, and crematorium or burial ground.
More funeral directors than you might think are brilliant; some are are awful.
When searching for a good funeral director, don’t bother looking for professional qualifications. Many of the very best have none. It really doesn’t matter.
Personal qualities matter most.
The person who you are looking for is someone like you: someone who will listen to you, understand you, see where you’re coming from and interpret your needs and wishes.
The right funeral director for one person may not necessarily be the right funeral director for someone else. You have to make a subjective judgment. Go with your gut feeling.
We have selected funeral directors who, we think, try hardest to get alongside their clients, give them all the time they need and do their best for them. The reviews are written in a way which ought to enable you to answer the only question that matters: ‘Is this my sort of person?’.
Who’s the cheapest?
Value for money can only be measured by the value you place on the funeral as an event. The more important this is to you, the more important it is to find exactly the right funeral director, and that funeral director might not be the cheapest. However, a highly attractive paradox of the funeral industry is that the best funeral directors are often the cheapest. A funeral cost comparison survey conducted in January 2010 by IPSOS Mori for the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors found that on average in England, Scotland and Wales, the larger chains of funeral directors are consistently more expensive, independents are better valued. The majority of funeral directors registered with Compare the Coffin .com are independently or family-run funeral directors.
Many branches of funeral chains trade under the name of the undertaker who sold out to the chain. They look like family businesses but they’re not – because they know that people don’t like big chains. When ringing around for quotes, always ask about ownership. Any business which answers to you, not to shareholders or venture capitalists, is likely to be the better.
If you’re skint
If you are penniless you may be eligible for a payment from the Social Fund. It won’t cover the complete cost of the funeral and it is very hard to get. Citizens Advice offer good guidance.
Beware the name over the door!
Many branches of funeral chains trade under the name of the undertaker who sold out to the chain. They look like family businesses but they’re not – because they know that people don’t like big chains. When ringing round for quotes, always ask about ownership. Any business which answers to you, not to shareholders or venture capitalists, is likely to be the better. Other funeral chains you ought to be aware of are Fairways Partnership, a subsidiary of Co-op Funeralcare; Laurel Management (LM Funerals); and Funeral Services Partnership. How deplorable, you may think, that these outfits have so little faith in their good name that they feel they have to dress up as someone else. How right you are.
Can you trust budget undertakers you find on the internet?
If it’s a low-frills service you’re after, drive a hard bargain with a local undertaker. If you surf the net and find a cheaper outfit, beware! At the moment we know of none. If you’re not sure, give us a call.
If money is a real issue for you
If you are in a financially difficult position you may be eligible for a payment from the Social Fund. It won’t cover the complete cost of the funeral and it is very hard to get. Citizens Advice offer good guidance.
Direct cremation is for you if a) you don’t want to have a funeral – it is the ultimate in no-frills deathcare – or b) you regard cremation as a means of preparing a body for a funeral and wish to hold an event with the ashes present at any venue you choose – a restaurant, a mountaintop, the seaside. There are more formal options too, of course. It is a particularly attractive option for people wanting to take the person who has died abroad to their home country; you save the considerable costs of embalming and air freight.
So far as we are aware there is just one internet undertaker offering direct cremation nationwide.
Can you trust funeral information websites?
Before you begin to start trusting any funeral information website check out it’s About Us tab. If there isn’t one, tread warily. There are some information websites out there which are independent and informative and supplement the information you will find here. We very much like and approve of:
Useful information about cemeteries, memorials, local funeral directors, etc
The Bereavement Services Portal is a good source of very useful info about registrars, cemeteries, memorials, local funeral directors, natural burial grounds, care and advice, and the like. Find it here.
You can find pretty much all the background information about cemeteries you’ll need here.
How do we decide who are the best funeral directors?
These are the criteria we have used in selecting the best funeral directors:
- Evidence of dedication, emotional intelligence, and a pleasing personality.
- The desire to work collaboratively with clients.
- Flexibility. Awareness that a funeral is, for the client, a more or less participative event.
- Willingness to make as much time as the client needs.
- An absence of self-importance.
- Awareness that the funeral belongs to the client, not to the funeral director.
- Highly personal service. Commitment to seeing it through with the client.
- No delegation to funeral arrangers. No appointment of a stranger on the day to conduct the funeral.
- Awareness of trends in client expectations and evidence of a desire to embrace change.
Co-operative Funeralcare — the people’s undertaker?
There are three reasons for this. First, the Good Funeral Guide receive too many complaints about Funeralcare’s standards of service. Second, even though Funeralcare enjoys significant economies of scale, its average charge for a funeral is higher by, often, £800, than many independent firms. We think it deplorable that the ‘people’s undertaker’ should cost consumers so much. Lastly, Funeralcare has de-recognized the GMB Union. This, we believe, betrays its founding principles and renders it ethically redundant. You can decide for yourself by considering the GMB’s case. We have not, in spite of frequent requests, received a defense of its actions from Co-operative Funeralcare.
It has been pointed out to us that it can be very difficult to get hold of the CEO of Funeralcare should you wish to make a complaint and have become exasperated with the inactivity of the branch and its area manager. Here are his contact details: Mr. David Henry, Co-Operative Group, 1st Floor, Hanover Building, Hanover Street, Manchester, M60 0AD.
The best way to find the blog posts is to type ‘Co-op funeralcare good funeral guide’ into Google. That’ll take you to Gooogle’s cache.