Checklist for use when appointing a funeral director

The good news is that market research confirms that levels of customer satisfaction regarding funeral directors remain high and that the quality of service provided is very good.

Reasons to be careful

At the same time, there are three specific reasons why you should be careful. The first reason is that funerals are expensive and getting more so at an alarming rate.

What is worrying is that the average cost of a funeral rose at a rate of 7.2% per year between 2004 and 2012; way above the rate of inflation. One explanation is the substantial increase in cremation and burial fees in the last decades. These fees are usually determined by local authorities.

The second reason is the material difference between the estimates being given by funeral directors and their final bills.

The third and associated reason is the amount that additional costs (such items as flowers, order of service sheets, an additional limousine) are pushing up final bills.

You should take considerable care in making the appointment of the funeral director and, indeed agreeing to an estimate of costs, to ensure that you fully understand what you are buying and at what price.

1. Speak to more than one funeral director

You should speak to more than one funeral director in your area before making the appointment as fees can vary considerably.

Although you may have used a funeral director in the past we suggest that you speak to more than one firm.  Not only will get a better understanding of pricing and levels of service but you may also  find your preferred choice working harder for your business if they realise that there is competition for your business.

In addition, as the process of consolidation in the industry continues an increasing number of family owned firms of funeral directors are under new management. You need to make sure that you are happy with any change in style of service this entails.

2. Check that the funeral director is a member of a trade association

As previously noted, you should check that the funeral director you are looking to appoint is a member of one of the two trade associations.

The funeral director should be a member of either the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD), which conducts around 85% of the funeral services in the UK each year, or the Society of Allied and Independent Directors (SAIF) which looks after the interests of smaller, independent, privately owned firms.

3. Ask for a full price list and initial quote

When you contact the funeral directors ask them for a price list and also a detailed description of the costs involved. You should also ask them for an initial quote.

The initial quote should include full details of each disbursement and additional costs that have been included. The disbursements are the various costs that the funeral director will make on your behalf and will include the minister’s fee for conducting the funeral service and the cremation or burial fee. The additional costs, as noted, are such items as a public announcement of the death and a headstone.

This breakdown of the underlying costs is sometimes difficult to obtain as funerals are often sold as an overall package. A further complicating factor is that each funeral director has a different way of describing costs. You need to persevere and if you don’t understand anything you need to ask.

These days it should be no problem for a funeral director to send you their price list and initial quote by email.

4. Further information to request

If you don’t personally know anyone who has recently used the funeral director, it may be a good idea to request from them endorsements and comments from recent customers.

You may also want to ask the funeral director to confirm how much final bills on average differ from estimates given to customers.

5. Lasting Post cost calculator

When you receive the initial quotes from the funeral directors we suggest that you use our funeral cost calculator to review them.

The initial quotes will give you a good starting point for reviewing the costs involved. The Lasting Post calculator will help you work exactly what items you want to have included and the prices you are prepared to pay.

You will also be able to compare the prices of specific items as quoted by the funeral directors with the price of sourcing them directly.

6. Arrange to meet at the funeral director’s place of business

When you have reviewed the quotes you should arrange to meet the funeral director, you propose to appoint, at their place of business. This meeting should take place before you formally make the appointment.

At the meeting you should go through each cost included in the initial quote in detail. You need to understand exactly what is going to be included in the formal estimate and what is not. For example, will there be a charge for visiting the body at the funeral director’s chapel of rest?  It is essential that you know if you are going to receive an accurate estimate.

At the end of the meeting ask for a formal estimate of costs.

7. Always ask for the formal estimate to be in writing

For the avoidance of any doubt at a later date, always ask for the formal estimate of costs to be given in writing.

8. Check when the bill has to be paid

Finally, you should check when the funeral director’s bill has to be paid. You should receive a discount for early payment.

Please note

The information which we provide through Lasting Post is in outline for information or educational purposes only. The information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a solicitor, accountant or other professional adviser. We cannot guarantee that information provided by Lasting Post will meet your individual needs, as this will very much depend on your individual circumstances. You should therefore use the information only as a starting point for your enquiries.