When planning a funeral, you will have to discuss difficult subjects at a time when you may be experiencing feelings of sadness and loss.

Funeral directors play a critical role in planning and carrying out a funeral service, in accordance with your instructions.  They have the knowledge and experience to assist families to understand the funeral options available, and to explain the different funeral services and product features to create personalized and meaningful tributes.

They will also complete the necessary legal documentation with the authorities, to register the death and obtain a death certificate.

There are a number of aspects to consider when choosing a Funeral Director:

Funeral homes are often selected because they are close to home, they have been used by the family in the past, or they have been recommended by a trusted friend. While these might be a useful ways of finding a funeral home during a distressing time, limiting the search to a single funeral home may result in paying more than is necessary and/or reducing your choices of services available.

Choosing an Independent Family Owned or Corporate Owned Funeral Home?  There are two types of funeral homes in Australia.  There are benefits to both types, so it is important to know which type of funeral home is most appropriate for you.

Independent and Family Owned Funeral Homes are locally or family owned businesses, that were established without the assistance of a large corporation, and many families have been in the funeral profession for generations.  Generally, they have greater flexibility when it comes to pricing, with lower overheads and fewer financial commitments.

You will be able to liaise directly with the owner and operators of the funeral home, who are not obliged to follow large corporate policies or directives.  This means they can be very flexible and individual with funeral arrangements. They are also not bound to particular suppliers, and are able to provide personalised items from a range of businesses eg coffins, urns, flowers and caterers.

Corporate Owned Funeral Homes are owned by a large corporation, for example those that are publicly listed on the stock exchange, like Invocare Limited, which operates 250 funeral locations and 14 cemeteries and crematoria, in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and the USA.

Large corporate companies generally benefit from large volume corporate buying power, and they can own subsidiary companies that provide coffins and flowers etc.  This does not necessarily mean that these lower prices are passed onto the consumer.  As a public company, they are required to focus on keeping their share price elevated by achieving the highest possible return for a large group of shareholders.

Choosing a funeral home that is a part of a large organisation, could mean that you get the guarantees that come with doing business with a multinational company, however missing out on the flexibility that you might require.

In general, most funeral homes are affiliated with at least one industry association, and each of these associations has their own Code of Conduct, which covers professional standards, a members’ obligations to the public, care of the deceased and legislative compliance.

In the funeral profession, many of the advertised ‘family owned’ funeral homes are in fact owned by multi-national corporations. If having a ‘family or independently owned’ funeral director is important to you, then you have the right to ask this question.

Initial funeral price comparisons are most easily done over the telephone, and you may request that an estimate be provided in writing and emailed or faxed to you, listing all itemised fees and charges.  It is wise to request an itemised break down of costs over the phone before proceeding to make an appointment with a funeral home.

If you are going in person, be sure to take a family member or friend with you, to help ask questions about options and costs and possibly assist you with making difficult decisions.  When choosing a funeral home, it’s important that they can meet all your needs and accommodate your particular wishes, and have experience planning the type of funeral you want.

If you wish to personalise the funeral service, there are many options available to you. See the two sections ‘Personalising a Funeral on our website for more information.

Your first meeting with a funeral director is an opportunity for you to ask questions, learn more about the services offered, and obtaint a general sense of the professionalism of the funeral home.  Most importantly, you should feel comfortable with the funeral director.

If you have documentation such as a Birth, Marriage or Citizenship Certificates, it is advisable to take these with you.  Please see our article on  ‘What to Take to a Funeral Director’ for further information and print out our Checklist.

Do not agree to any funeral arrangements that make you feel uncomfortable, and at no point should you feel that the funeral director is pressuring you to add unwanted services.

If you require the services of a Funeral Director, please use our Business Search facility here.