Where to Get Help Making Decisions About Planning a Funeral
Last updated November 2017
Funeral homes provide important services, but they are businesses—which means they are typically run for profit and with a goal of maximizing each sale. They make money by selling products and services, some of which you and your family may not want, need, or be able to afford.
Often a grieving family must respond on-the-spot to a long list of questions from a funeral director. The funeral director is at ease in situations of death, when the family is distraught and knows little or nothing about the choices or what they cost. The funeral director may subtly manipulate the family’s grief and guilt to encourage extravagant purchases. This situation, far too common, explains why most funerals and burial arrangements in the U.S. cost between $7,000 and $10,000. There is nothing wrong with an expensive funeral, if that’s what the family wants. But many families that might prefer a simple, dignified ceremony end up with something lavish and costly.
Most people need help making funeral arrangements, especially when they’re made during the period of bereavement. One firm rule: Never go to a funeral home to choose the services you will be purchasing by yourself. Alone, in the hands of a funeral director, you are too vulnerable to making decisions based on grief or guilt. You need a less-involved companion to assure you that sensible cost-saving decisions are okay.
The obvious ones to turn to for help with funeral arrangements are family, friends, members of the clergy, and hospital social workers. But specialized organizations can help as well.
A particularly helpful source of advice can be funeral consumer organizations, traditionally referred to as “memorial societies.” These nonprofit organizations provide consumer education and resources regarding your rights and options for burial and cremation. Some also negotiate discounted prices for their members with local funeral homes. Typically, a one-time nominal donation is required to join.
The Funeral Consumers Alliance is the national umbrella group for affiliated funeral consumer groups in the U.S. Many local affiliates perform price surveys of area funeral homes. They also provide information on organ or tissue donation, and provide information on death benefits. They do not arrange for funerals, pay for funerals, or choose a specific funeral home for you.
Below, we list contact information for the Chicago Memorial Association and other resources. To find memorial societies in other areas, contact the Funeral Consumers Alliance at 802-865-8300 or visit funerals.org.
Chicago Memorial Association
P.O. Box 5889
Chicago, IL 60680
Funeral Consumers Alliance
33 Patchen Road
South Burlington, VT 05403
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation
100 W. Randolph Street, 9th Floor
Chicago, IL 60601
Illinois Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Division
100 W. Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60601
City of Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection
121 N. LaSalle Street, 8th Floor
Chicago, IL 60602
National Funeral Directors Association
13625 Bishop’s Drive
Brookfield, WI 53005
Illinois Funeral Directors Association
215 S. Grand Avenue West
Springfield, IL 62704
Better Business Bureau
330 N. Wabash Avenue, Suite 3120
Chicago, IL 60611