When it comes to making any large purchase, price is always a consideration. Most people want to secure the very best deal they can, but it’s important to do your homework and understand exactly what that price includes.
That same principle applies to selecting a funeral home package – sometimes the cheapest price doesn’t give you all the services you need or want. Funeral homes may have packages at different price points, or they may offer a base price with a limited number of services.
Here are 7 questions to ask up front to ensure you receive the services you need and avoid unpleasant (or costly) surprises later.
1. Does the price include any memorial products, such as a printed program for the funeral service?
Dana Holtvoigt, Director Of Marketing at McAlister-Smith Funeral & Cremation, says many people don’t realize the funeral home creates those programs as well as any other memorial products, such as a DVD or bookmark. A lower priced funeral package may not include those items.
2. Are aftercare services provided?
Once the funeral is over, there’s still a lot of work for the family members as they close accounts, begin the probate process, or apply for survivor benefits from Veterans Affairs. A funeral home is well equipped to assist in these financial and legal matters, but only if you’ve paid for them.
“These aftercare services are typically not provided with a lower-cost package,” Holtvoigt explains. “Yet they can be incredibly valuable as families navigate complex paperwork, or realize they need multiple copies of the original death certificate to close a bank account or change a utility bill.”
3. Is the urn or casket included?
A basic urn may be provided for a cremation, but a more decorative or higher-quality urn could be an added cost. Be sure to ask if a cremation casket is included in the price or, in the case of a burial, if a basic casket is included.
4. Does the funeral home offer grief support?
While McAlister-Smith offers grief support services, not all funeral homes, especially lower-cost providers, have the capability to offer support groups or counseling services.
5. How many times can you contact the funeral director for assistance?
With a lower price point, the funeral home’s involvement may end the minute the funeral has ended. Others, like McAlister-Smith, may continue to assist clients for months or even years after the funeral service.
“You retain our services forever, so if you have a question or need a document even a year later, we can help,” Holtvoigt says. “If you go with a lower-cost provider, they may work with you one time and that’s it.”
6. Are there stipulations with any “free” offerings?
A funeral home may include a free memorial service with the package, which seems like a good deal. But be sure to ask about the fine print. It could be stipulated for a certain day of the week or time, such as weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. For some people that could work fine, but other families may require a weekend or evening memorial service.
7. Are burial or cemetery costs separate?
A funeral home can assist with the burial preparations, but it’s important to understand that the cemetery has separate charges for the plot, the vault or casket, as well as fees for opening and closing the grave. Transportation to the gravesite and any graveside service would also be an additional charge.
“It’s not every day that people plan a funeral so it’s crucial to take the time to educate yourself on the price and understand everything that is included – or not included,” Holtvoigt says.
“A benefit of pre-planning is that you work all of this out ahead of time,” she adds. “You can talk to your family, get an estimate and decide on a payment plan.”
Working out the details and pricing in advance gives people the time to gather information and make an educated decision.
“The sooner people ask these questions, the better,” Holtvoigt says. “You don’t want to be shopping around when the death occurs.”
McAlister-Smith Funeral & Cremation has been a local and trusted name for funeral and cremation services for more than 130 years. The team at McAlister-Smith has the expertise and resources to help you through every step of planning a service and beyond.
Visit one of their four convenient locations in Mount Pleasant, West Ashley, James Island and Goose Creek to see what a modern funeral home can provide.
For more information about services and resources, go to McAlister-Smith.com or call (843) 722-8371.
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