Using a Funeral Director

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1 Using a Funeral Director Introduction Organising a funeral is a challenging task, especially if you have no previous experience. Choosing a funeral director is likely to be the first big decision in that process. Even if you have personal experience of another funeral to draw on and receive recommendations from friends and family, it is recommended that you approach a number of companies to ascertain what services they can offer and how much these services will cost. The following advice is offered in the hope that it will help you to make an informed choice. Details of local funeral directors can be obtained from Telephone Directories, Newspapers, the Citizens Advice Bureau and on the internet. Please note that Pembrokeshire County Council is unable to comment on individual funeral directors. Requests for burials or cremations from individuals who do not choose to use a funeral director are treated equally with those who do. What to expect from a funeral director Funeral directing as a profession first appeared in the latter part of the 1700s. Funerals were organised through individuals who may have become involved simply because it was their family s traditional role in the community: someone to prepare the body, the coffin maker, the grave digger. Finally the minister would conduct the funeral service in a churchyard. Together they would oversee most of the functions of a funeral director today. In Victorian times death became commercialised and this led to the greater use of the funeral director with the hearse and black attire with which we are now familiar. Little has changed since then except for the use of the internal combustion engine to transport the body and the preference for cremation rather than burial. Funeral directors have to organise a funeral on behalf of distressed clients, who must make a major purchase in a crisis and who may have little idea of what service to expect. Yet they can still set up in business without training or qualifications. There is no system of licensing and it can be difficult for an ordinary member of the public to be confident in their choice. Fortunately, funeral directors are generally very keen to maintain a good reputation. Most are members of professional funeral directors organisations, notably the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) and Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) which provide a Code of Conduct and also vocational training for members. Members have to agree to adhere to such a Code and to make it freely available for inspection by their clients. The Code lays out minimum standards and includes a complaints procedure in the event of dissatisfaction with the service provided. The British Institute of Funeral Directors is another trade organisation which holds a Register of Professionally Qualified Funeral Directors and has recently issued its own Licence to Practice to members who are committed to Continuous Professional Development. The majority of funeral directors in West Wales are family businesses, but throughout the UK many funeral directors have been purchased by much larger companies, who will then continue to trade under the old name, but may not offer the same service as before. The identity of the new owners may not be disclosed on shop signs or letterheads. If this is a concern, it is a good idea to ask. The standard funeral Typically, the following services might be provided by a funeral director as part of a standard funeral: -

2 Initial meeting to discuss the funeral arrangements Provision of an itemised estimate for a basic funeral (to be agreed before the funeral director is formally engaged) and a price list of possible extra charges Collection and transport of the deceased over a specified distance and care of the deceased up to a specified time or until the day of the funeral Provision of a basic coffin Arrangement of the date and time of the funeral with the cemetery or crematorium authority Collation and checking of statutory forms and certificates. Accurate completion of crematorium or cemetery booking forms, specifying the type of service and music. Completion of instructions for dealing with cremated remains after a cremation. Delivery of forms to the cemetery or crematorium office Payment of various fees and charges in advance, usually called disbursements. (These include cemetery or crematorium fees, minister's fees etc. and are included as a separate item in the estimate) Provision of a hearse and driver to transport the deceased direct to the place of burial or cremation up to a specified distance Overseeing the process of the funeral on the day Issue of a bill for the services provided including a fully itemised account Although this is a typical list of services that might be expected from a funeral director, it is not the complete picture. Funeral directors help, console and guide the bereaved during times of great distress. They are also able to provide advice on a wide range of subjects which may be of concern in the time following a death. Variations to the Standard Service The following are services that are commonly charged as extras: - Arrangement of an appointment to view the deceased in a Chapel of Rest Arrangement of floral tributes Arrangement of newspaper obituaries Provision of following limousines with drivers Choice of alternative coffins Embalming Different people have different needs and different expectations of a funeral. Funeral directors may be able to offer a very wide variety of options, enabling the funeral to be tailored to any directions that have been expressed by the deceased in a will or funeral plan and also the particular requirements of family and friends. The variations may enhance the standard service, such as provision of a horse drawn hearse, or reduce it, for example there may be no need for a service of any kind and a reduction in expenses as a result. Where funerals are sold as a 'package', or where a number of elements of the service are combined under one heading in the schedule of charges presented to the customer, it can be difficult to ascertain the actual price of each component. This can create difficulties if you wish to dispense with or change some of the elements included in the package.

3 For example, the cost price of a standard chipboard coffin, fitted out for a funeral, may be as little as 100, but may appear in the estimate for 400. That is not to say that the charge is unreasonable or poor value. It could be a way of passing on the cost of unseen services such as the funeral director s time. However, if it is the intention that the funeral is organised mainly by the family, with the funeral director making a limited contribution, or if it is intended that a coffin is supplied by a specialist firm, this might require negotiation. Some funeral directors have arrangements with particular firms that supply floral tributes and memorials. They may even own the firm. This may mean that there is one less thing to worry about, but it may prevent you using independent suppliers who might provide better value or choice. Ideally a choice of suppliers should be offered by the funeral director. The Office of Fair Trading has suggested that each component of the funeral should be separately charged. This allows the selection of more or less of a funeral director s services according to the budget and individual need. It is best to discuss your needs and the possibility of variation above or below the standard service before engaging a particular firm. Remember that all funeral directors differ in the services they provide and their ability to meet your requirements. Doing it yourself It is now much easier to organise DIY funerals, though it is something that requires much advance planning for anything more complex than transportation of a body to the crematorium in a van. Would be DIYers often do not consider the effects of the trauma of the bereavement on the organiser. The services of a good funeral director to take the strain may sometimes be the better solution. For those who wish to pursue this, a good starting point is to contact The Natural Death Centre, The Natural Death Centre is a charitable project launched in Britain in It aims to support those dying at home and their carers, and to help people arrange inexpensive, family-organised, and environmentally-friendly funerals. It has a more general aim of helping to improve the quality of dying. There is also a great deal of help and advice in a publication issued by the Department of Work and Pensions: What to do after a Death in England and Wales : Most funeral directors will assist in DIY funerals if one part of the process is beyond the organiser, provided the extent of the assistance is clearly defined; for example just provision of vehicles. However, they will understandably want to prioritise their main clients where they are already undertaking another funeral. The law on payment Common law recognises that a funeral consists of a sequence of tasks and events, all of which must be satisfactory. If even a single element is performed unsatisfactorily, the payment of the entire account may be disputed by the person paying for the funeral. The disbursements are not part of the funeral directors charges and must be paid in any case. It should be noted that whoever orders the funeral becomes liable for the funeral costs, regardless of their relationship to the deceased. Occasionally well meaning relatives and friends have found themselves liable for the whole cost of a funeral when estate monies have failed to materialise. Getting help with paying for the funeral If the person responsible for the funeral or their partner is receiving certain benefits, financial help may be available if no one else is able to pay for the funeral. A basic but dignified funeral can be arranged which may include cremation without a service or burial in an unpurchased grave.

4 Good advice regarding this can be found in the publications issued by the Department of work and Pensions through the Social Fund. Age Concern will also provide advice with a fact sheet 'Arranging a Funeral'. Other organisations will offer help and advice including the Citizens Advice Bureau. When a person dies in hospital and there is nobody able or willing to arrange and pay for the funeral the health service authority will fulfil this obligation to a basic level. Similarly Local Authorities have a duty to arrange the burial or cremation of any person who has died in their area and there is no one to make arrangements. The Local Authority can reclaim any expenses incurred from the estate. If there is no estate, only the most basic funeral may be provided. Funeral Plans Some people alleviate the worry of paying for a funeral by purchasing a funeral plan. Funeral plans may be paid by lump sum, which enables an agreed funeral package to be paid for in advance, or by installments over an agreed period of time. There are several options available and all of them require careful consideration. It is important to check the small print in any financial arrangement and funeral plans are no different in this respect. For example, what guarantees are there that the plan will provide what was intended at the time of purchase? It is also necessary to choose a burial or cremation package that exactly meets your aspirations. Plans may be linked to an individual funeral director or group of funeral directors, who may have ceased trading by the time a funeral is required. The plan may not incorporate costs that are usually treated as extras, such as viewing the body or extra transport costs. It may not include burial or cremation fees or the purchase of a grave. It may not take into account the possibility of changes in family circumstances occurring over the years between purchase of the plan and receiving the service. The possibility of altering the arrangements to deal with a change in needs, or even cancelling the funeral, needs to be explored together with any costs to be incurred in the event of changes. In addition to funeral plans, there are other ways to cover the costs. A joint savings account with a trusted named executor can provide funds immediately upon a death. A life insurance policy may be another possible alternative. It is recommended that you consult you professional financial advisor before committing to any financial plan and that guarantees are obtained with such schemes to ensure that the necessary funds are available at the time they are needed. The total cost of a funeral at time of death can be substantially reduced if burial or cremation fees are purchased in advance from Pembrokeshire County Council. Contacts National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) Established in 1905, formerly the British Undertakers Association, this was the principal trade association in the funeral profession until the mid 1980's. Its members' Code of Practice is available free. 618 Warwick Road, Solihull, West Midlands B91 1AA Tel: Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF)

5 Established in 1989 with a membership covering over 900 funeral homes, SAIF is the co-ordinating body for smaller, independent, often family, firms. 3 Bullfields, Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire CM21 9DB Tel: Fax: The British Institute of Funeral Directors The B.I.F.D was formed in 1982 by to provide an organisation for professionally qualified individuals working within the funeral Industry. The Institute's main aim is to promote education services within the profession. 1 Gleneagles House, Vernon Gate, South Street, Derby, DE1 1UP Tel: Natural Death Centre The Natural Death Centre provides an independent funeral advice service within the UK. It provides information on all types of funeral choices, but is especially known for advice & support on familyorganised, environmentally-friendly funerals, and Natural Burial Grounds.20 Heber Road, London NW2 6AA 12a Blackstock Mews, Blackstock Road, London N4 2BT Tel Age Concern Age Concern is an organisation which promotes the interests of older people. It provides advice on a wide range of subjects including funerals and other related matters. Astral House, 1268 London Road, London SW16 4ER

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