Funeral Costs and Expenses

Who's in charge - Funeral Home or Family Member

When you decide to pre-plan and pre-pay for your funeral you must decide who you're going to trust to spend your money to carry out your funeral wishes. There are two choices either a funeral home or a family member. Whoever you choose, they shoud be named as the beneficiary on the financial instrument you use to pre pay for your funeral. There are advantages and disadvantages of each option.

Advantages of using a family member:

1 It may be more personal. The money and decision-making power stays in the family. The funeral itself may contain more heart-felt and personal details.

2 It can more accurately express your wishes. A family member can adjust to unforeseen changes. A professional probably won’t deviate from your expressed wishes.

For example: You said you wanted Father Jones to officiate, but at the time of the funeral the family is upset with Father Jones because he didn’t visit you during the final months of your life. Another clergy did visit and you’d asked that person to officiate at your funeral. Everyone in your family knows this but the funeral home doesn’t. A designated family member can easily decide who to ask to officiate based on the most current information.

3 The family is more involved. Being involved in the funeral event can help the family to address their grief and can help them heal.

Disadvantages of using a family member:

1 A family member may not want the responsibility. Arranging a funeral can be viewed as a burden for the person "stuck with the job". Some people don’t like to make decisions and don’t want the responsibility of managing a public event like a funeral. Placing this pressure on a family member during a time of grief and loss might make the funeral an unpleasant and stressful burden for them. Make sure the designated family member sincerely wants the job.

2 A family member may not be responsible. You need to make sure the family member has a copy of your wishes in an easily accessible place. A family member could misplace the plan and be left scrambling to remember what you had wanted.

3 A family member might be inexperienced at planning funerals.

4 There's a potential for family conflict. You must make sure your close friends and family know that you’ve selected one person to be in charge. If it’s unclear there could be arguments about how the funeral should be arranged and what you actually wanted. Make it clear that one person has ultimate decision-making power.

Advantages of using a funeral home:

1 Funeral directors are experienced; they know how to plan and oversee funerals. The average funeral home directs 120 funerals a year. Funeral directors know what works and what doesn’t for most families.

2 Your family won’t have to stress about the funeral, they can take the back seat and let the funeral directors manage the details.

Disadvantages of using a funeral home:

1 It may be less personal. Because funeral homes do so many funerals, they have standard practices that they’ve seen work for the funeral home and the mourning families. The standard practice may feel impersonal.

2 The family has less control. The funeral home has the responsibility of carrying out your wishes. If family members have issues, then they have to confront the funeral director. That might be uncomfortable.