If you’re recently bereaved and organising a funeral, it can be hard to think straight and make practical decisions — especially if it’s all new to you. It can feel like just getting it done is the priority.
While that’s understandable, it’s worth taking some time to weigh up your options. So here are some useful things to think about, and questions you might want to ask, when choosing a funeral director.
What does a funeral director do?
They arrange the services and manage the logistics of a funeral. They also offer advice, support and guidance to the family at all stages.
You can decide what you’d like them to take care of. There are many elements to a funeral, but a funeral director’s services can include:
- Bringing the person who’s died to the funeral home
- Dressing them in clothes chosen by the family
- Enabling family viewings of the body at a chapel of rest
- Placing a notice in a newspaper
- Dealing with legal documentation
- Liaising with the crematorium, or booking a burial plot
- Planning the ceremony and organising a celebrant
- Supplying a coffin and bearers
- Providing a hearse to transport the body to the crematorium or burial ground
- Providing transport for mourners
- Preparing the ashes
- Organising a memorial
What to think about before you approach a funeral director
Here are some of the key things to think about before you get in touch with a funeral director.
- Check if the person who’s died left instructions in their will. They may have already considered the funeral director they want, perhaps through using them in the past, or family connections, and made a note in their will. This might also confirm if they wanted a cremation or a burial.
- Consider if they had a funeral plan in place. Check their financial documents for signs of a prepaid plan. If it was bought from a provider that’s registered with the Funeral Planning Authority (FPA), you may be able to find it by filling in a form on the FPA's website.
- Ask family and friends for their views. You don’t have to take it all on your shoulders. Talking to family and friends might help with a personal recommendation for a funeral director. And it might also reveal some things you didn’t know that might help guide your choice, or the type of funeral you choose.
- If you want a specific type of funeral. Most funeral directors will try to accommodate your requests, like if you want a non-religious or celebration of life funeral. But for something specific, like a woodland funeral, you might want to search via the Association of Green Funeral Directors or the Funeral Advisor.
- Decide on location. You’ll want to make sure people can get there easily. To find a funeral director by area, you can search the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) funeral directory, or do a National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) members search.
- Have a budget in mind. Be realistic about your budget, and don’t feel you need to spend more than you can afford, or more than what’s available from the money they’ve left behind. There’s nothing wrong with asking what the simplest service they offer would cost, or opting for a pared-down funeral or direct cremation — and they should be open to giving you prices for this. After all, there’s little correlation between how lavish the farewell is and the depth feeling for the person who’s died.
Questions to ask a funeral director
When you first get in touch, you might want to ask these questions during your conversation, if they aren’t answered along the way.
- If they’re a member of any professional associations. To ensure high standards, ask if they’re registered with an organisation that monitors standards and has a code of practice, like the NAFD or SAIF.
- What’s included, and what costs extra. Ask for a quote that has a breakdown of the services included, so you can make a balanced judgement before the final invoice arrives. Remember, you may need to also consider additional costs for things like the wake and flowers, and any memorial.
- Which services you have a choice about. A funeral director can organise some or all of a funeral. So if you want to source the coffin, or arrange your own transport, check how flexible they can be.
- How your loved one will be cared for. Not all funeral directors offer the same facilities, so you may want to ask how they will look after the body until the funeral.
- Ask about the bill. Do they need a deposit, and when will the full payment need to be made? You might want to also ask if it’s possible to pay by instalments, if money from the estate isn’t available when the invoice arrives. If you need help with paying for a funeral, you can check your eligibility for a Funeral Expenses Payment.
Before you go ahead
Once you’ve spoken to the funeral director and discussed the services you’d like, there are a few final things worth doing before agreeing to their services.
- Get other people’s opinions. Look at online reviews. And if you know people who’ve used them before, ask them about their experience. Check the website, and take time to consider if their ethos is right for you.
- Consider if they were sensitive to your needs. Did they show empathy and kindness, and did they listen during your conversation? Were they flexible, if you want to only use some of their services? If not, look elsewhere; you need to feel confident that they’ll make things easier for you and understand your needs and approach, at what might be a difficult and emotional time.
- Ask for quotes from other funeral directors. While it might take a little more time, and you may not be in the right frame of mind, it’s sensible to get quotes for similar services from other funeral directors. The average cost of a funeral in 2019 was £4,202 1. You’d probably get a few quotes for things that cost a lot less, and it might help you feel reassured that you’re paying the going rate for the services you want.
If arranging a funeral is new to you, try not to feel daunted about speaking to a funeral director. It’s naturally a difficult topic, but remember they’re used to dealing with people going through a bereavement, and no questions are wrong, or too obvious.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to what to do when someone dies.