When a loved one dies, the grief of the family can be overwhelming. It can be challenging to move forward with funeral planning and burial preparations. Think about how much more difficult it can be for a family who loses a loved one unexpectedly.
Kiplinger’s recent article entitled “Funeral Planning Can Prevent Further Grief” says that despite strong consumer protection laws and the licensing of funeral home directors, it is still possible to have poor service from a funeral home. However, with good information and careful planning, family members should be able to pay their respects with dignity.
The best situation is a preplanned funeral. The deceased will have decided in advance or left written instructions about how things should be handled. The directive clearly states the steps to be taken by the family. Even better than a directive is planning directly with a local funeral home to document one's wishes for handling of the body and the funeral service for the deceased. The preplanning not only saves the family from having to make those decisions following the death, but ensures that they are honoring the wishes of the deceased loved one. Read more in our article, What are Benefits of Pre-Planning My Funeral?
The family owes it to the decedent – and to themselves – to make certain the provider chosen by the decedent is still in business and reputable. Just because the directive names a specific funeral home doesn’t mean that survivors are obligated to entrust the remains to that home. If the named funeral home raises concerns for the family, it’s better to move forward with a different funeral home, despite the decedent’s wishes. Furthermore, many funeral homes will transfer information about any preplanning or directives they received from the decedent upon request.
If the decedent failed to make funeral plans in advance, or if the family thinks the plans must be changed because of new information they’ve received about the designated funeral home, the process of shopping for a good funeral home starts. Remember, there are no lemon laws or do-overs if they get it wrong. Once a contract for funeral or burial services has been signed and the funeral home has taken possession of a body, it’s all but impossible to back out of the commitment. Therefore, the more due diligence done beforehand, the better everyone should sleep.
Conduct some basic research and read customer reviews. Look for complaints with the Better Business Bureau and state licensing agencies. It is also important to look at county records to see if there is a history of lawsuits against the funeral home. The more you know up front, the fewer surprises there should be later.
Next, meet with representatives of the funeral home to learn about their services. Every funeral home is obligated to provide prospective customers with a menu of choices before having them sign an agreement. If they try to sell you a package, or you feel in any way pressured to make a choice before you see their menu, get out of there.
Ultimately, funeral planning is one part of comprehensive estate planning that Lynchburg Estate Planning Attorney Robert W. Haley can help you to create to ensure that your loved ones are able to focus on what's most important after you pass. Schedule a call with the team at The Estate & Elder Law Center of Southside Virginia today to discuss how to get your planning completed.
Reference: Kiplinger (Jan. 10, 2023) “Funeral Planning Can Prevent Further Grief”