6 Questions to ask a funeral director

Funeral Planning
Two people sit at a table with coffee before them. We can see their torsos and lower bodies. One has a clipboard and is taking notes.

Funeral planning can be an exhausting and stressful experience, but it is an important thing to do. Think of organizing the funeral of a loved one as an honor. It is one of the last gestures of love you can make for them.

The person who is in charge of embalming, burial or cremation, and who coordinates arrangements for the funeral ceremony is the funeral director. This is your go-to person during the funeral planning process.

It is important to ask the funeral director a few questions before you choose a particular funeral home to handle the event. Below are six questions that we recommend you ask a funeral director, which will help you make the best possible decision.

1. Are services provided in-house, or outsourced?

One of the important aspects of planning a funeral for your loved one is maintaining a budget. When you speak with a funeral director, you should ask them if they provided services in-house, or if they outsource certain services to third parties.

Outsources services usually cost you more, so it's best to get details on this aspect of the funeral service up front. It can also be easier to communicate particular requirements for services offered in-house, since there are fewer parties involved, which leaves less room for miscommunication.

2. What funeral packages are available?

You should ask the funeral director about their funeral packages. Almost all funeral homes have some sort of funeral service package, which includes certain arrangements and services. There is usually a basic package option, which is less costly, and an all-inclusive plan for a higher price. Funeral directors will be more than happy to accommodate your specific budget range.

However, keep in mind that funeral service packages might have additional fees for overhead costs and other professional services. For example, the funeral home will coordinate with the church or cemetery, as well as prepare the official documents such as the death certificate, all for a fee.

3. Can your loved one's personal beliefs be accommodated?

It is also important to ask the funeral director if their funeral home is accommodating to personal beliefs, such as religious or philosophical customs. Personal beliefs are not just about religion and culture, but also the individual beliefs of your loved one. They might have detailed specific funeral service or burial arrangements in their will. If you are the executor of that will, it is important that you honor those wishes.

Funeral directors are usually open-minded towards personal beliefs — especially those who have many years of experience. If you are of a particular faith, you may want to ask the funeral director if they've arranged funerals for similar clients in the past.

4. Can the service be customized?

Most funeral homes give you the option to customize the funeral service. In fact, when you ask the funeral director about their funeral service packages, you can follow up by asking if they'll allow you specific details within the package you choose.

Keep in mind that certain customizations might incur additional fees. Customization is particularly important for families of service members. Military funerals have unique aspects to them and in some countries, funeral homes will not charge for military honors.

5. What is the funeral director's experience?

Although this is not the most important aspect of funeral services, it is worth taking the time to ask the funeral director how long their funeral home has been in business. This will give you an idea of what they might or might not be capable of providing for your family. Learning about their history and the various types of funerals they've arranged in the past will help you make your decisions.

6. What payment options do they offer?

Once the funeral insurance, also known as the final expense policy, has been resolved with the funeral director, it is important to ask them about payment options.

Insurance can be quite complex and there are many cases in which policies don't cover certain arrangements. Additional service fees will also add to the total cost of the funeral service. Many funeral homes offer installment plans and other payment structures to fit your budget.

Remember, paying more for your loved one's funeral service doesn't mean you love them any more than paying for a more affordable option. Often, we are not aware of our loved ones' insurance policies, or if they even have any. What's important is that you honor them by giving them a dignified funeral and proper burial or cremation.