Choose a Funeral Director – How To Find the Best Local Undertaker.
Undertakers are not all the same. Most are part of big national firms like the Coop and Dignity. As big does not necessarily mean low cost or good service, you may also want to look at family firms as well where the owners are involved in the day to day running of the business – though it is not easy to tell which ones are family firms as the big chains often retain the previous owners family name. Our directory of independent funeral directors is here. and the xounty index is further down the page, after some information about types of funeral and how costs vary (that in very general terms).
There is no harm at all in making enquiries before you or your loved one dies. If you know death is not far away, a prepaid plan can often be cheaper than waiting until the inevitable occurs, though the Financial Conduct Authority is trying to limit independent advice to those well off enough not to need it. Yes, they are thoughtfully protecting you from getting advice! Even a couple of weeks in advance we have known it to save £1700 – follow the link below. Better yet get it planned and paid for years in advance with a prepaid funeral. But assuming it is too late for that and that you have checked that there isn’t a prepaid plan, why not have a brief chat with a local funeral director or two? Find out what the costs are likely to be, and what extras they recommend and why. These can add massively to the costs if you caught unawares and vulnerable by a smooth salesman. Better than a last-minute panic when some target driven undertakers will talk you into lots of pointless extras “to show how much you loved” the person who has died.
Clearly, local reputation of the undertaker is an important issue, but the giants are buying small local undertakers all the time, so the firm a friend dealt with 12 months ago may no longer be run by the same folk, even though the name over the door is the same. There are a couple of main trade associations, the Society of Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) being one. Both of these have codes of practice for your protection. Clearly, some people will have specific requirements they need to choose a funeral director – perhaps religious or just personal such as wanting to be taken to the funeral in a motorcycle and sidecar, buried at sea, or perhaps having some of their ashes sent to space. Some have the ashes turned into jewellery. You would be surprised at the range of requirements – and at the cost of some of them. Not all undertakers provide a 24-hour service and if that is what you need, you may have to talk to another firm. The other is the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD)
You do NOT need to wait until the death is registered before choosing the undertaker, though it must be registered and the relevant paperwork (the “green form”) given to the funeral director before the actual funeral can take place.
Choosing an undertaker is not easy as they all look the same and they (mostly) look like small family-run firms. They’re really big differences in costs and levels of service. Prices can differ by £1,000 or more. Some funeral directors are skilled at guilt-tripping you into spending too much. Others care about you as an individual and will only recommend extras which are truly of benefit. Levels of service also vary widely.
Engaging a undertaker is a commercial transaction just like any other. You owe it to the deceased to get value for money. Above all, you owe it to your loved one to find someone who will look after them with the greatest care at a sensible cost. Shelling out lots of money helps no one but the undertaker.
How to choose a funeral director:
- Convenience matters
- Cost matters
- Reputation matters.
- Service matters
- The cost of extras matters a great deal.
- Probably most important, do you feel the undertaker is listening to you? Or are they just trying to upsell you all the time? Greed is not ideal, thoughtful caring service is.
The best undertaker won’t necessarily be the cheapest – a genuinely caring undertaker can make an enormous difference to the success and positive feeling of what can be a negative and miserable event if handled badly.
Contact Us with any questions!
Types of Funeral to choose from.
Sometimes the person will have indicated what sort of funeral they wanted in their Will, though the Executors are technically in charge of the arrangements, so it is quite important to find the Will swiftly. Bear in mind that the person who books the funeral directors is generally responsible for paying for it, and if no one, then the owners of the place they died in (but try enforcing that!)
- Direct cremation
This is the least expensive form of funeral. Essentially, the deceased is picked up and taken away to be cremated. There is no family viewing after the collection. Often the collection is by private ambulance rather than a hearse, and there is usually no form of actual family service at the time. Many families hold a family get-together a little later on, at a weekend, to meet up and talk about the deceased and re-connect. Sometimes it is possible to get a few family members to attend, at extra cost, but generally, the crematorium can be hundreds of miles away. The ashes can be spread at the crematorium or returned to the family, which is about the only choice with this type of funeral.
2) Low Cost Cremation
These are available in some areas, and some or all of the following may keep the cost down. Private ambulance rather than hearse delivers the deceased to the crematorium before the service, there is no procession from home, often no family viewing. The time of the service is usually before 10 am or after 4 pm when cremation costs are lower and may be decided by the undertaker. The service will be less than 30 minutes, the coffin a standard one.
3) Standard Cremation
A hearse from the undertakers to arrive at the crematorium and the coffin to be carried down the aisle to the catafalque (which it rests on during the service until being withdrawn at the end) by the funeral directors staff (unless the family wish to provide the pall bearers.)
Church service beforehand, embalming to preserve the body for viewing, more expensive coffins, limousines for family members, a funeral procession from the home to the crematorium, fees for a clergyman or other person to conduct the service, orders of service, posh urns for the ashes, scattering the ashes at the crematorium, tuning the ashes into jewellery or sending some into space and many more options.
The extras as above may be relevant, but the biggest issue is usually the burial plot. If there is a family plot AND it allows for additional “interments” as burial is called, permission has to be given by the owner, who is often dead. Their executors can arrange for the plot to be transferred to a new owner, but this is not always a quick job. If the plot is readily available, then burial need not be more expensive than cremation. If a new plot has to be purchased, the cost can range from over £15,000 to under £500, depending on the area. Green burial plots are available, but there will be restrictions on coffin types and embalming, so planning at least a little ahead can manage expectations.
How to choose a funeral director.
Other areas will follow as we have time, if the area you need is not covered, you will be able to to find one at the Independent Funeral Directors Directory.