If you have recently lost a loved one or are preparing for your own end-of-life arrangements, the gravity of the situation may be overwhelming. Regardless of the circumstances, choosing a funeral home is a difficult, yet essential, part of life.

While funeral homes can’t alleviate the sorrow of losing a loved one, there are trained professionals who can help you make an informed decision during an emotional time.

Set A Budget

Family members are often left to cover the expense of their loved ones’ funeral services, so you need to be prepared for some expenditures. An average funeral with a casket costs between $7,000 and $9,000; the cost decreases slightly to $6,000 to $7,000 with cremation.

And while those costs include the basics — viewing, burial or cremation, embalming and other preparation — they do not include other expenses, such as a cemetery plot, marker or flowers.

Before you start looking around, determine a price range for funeral costs. You may revise your budget later as you learn more about available services, but it’s important to know ahead of time how much you’re able to spend.

Do Your Research

Many people have written wills or have expressed their preferences to their family before they die, but some families are left with the choice of figuring out what option their loved one would have wanted. Some options include:

• Traditional burial, with embalming, viewing, elaborate funeral service, etc.

• Natural burial, in a shroud or simple box

• Direct cremation or burial without embalming or viewing

• Home funeral service

• Alternative options, such as donating the body for medical research

Establish Priorities

Once you know what you can spend and what’s available, make a list of requirements for funeral services. This will narrow your options to only funeral homes that provide those required services.

Make a second list of priorities and decide which services are not necessarily deal-breakers but would make the difference when comparing similar funeral homes.

Know Your Rights

Funeral service consumers have legal rights, such as receiving price information over the phone or an itemized price list when you visit the funeral home.

Remember, you can choose to forego the embalming process and use an alternative container in place of a casket or urn without incurring fees. You also have the right to receive a written statement of what services will cost before you pay for them.

Compare Your Options

Find funeral homes that check off the list of requirements and compare prices online. You should also plan to visit several funeral homes and talk to their staffs. Discuss your specific needs and ask for quotes. Don’t sign anything until you’ve compared quotes from multiple homes and picked the best option for you.

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