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 memorial societies in the area and other resources. To find memorial societies in other areas, contact the Funeral Consumers Alliance at 802-865-8300 or visit funerals.org.
Funeral Consumers Alliance (national)
33 Patchen Road
South Burlington, VT 05403
Funeral Consumers Alliance of Maryland and Environs (serves Delaware)
9601 Cedar Lane
Bethesda, MD 20814
Funeral Consumers Alliance of South Jersey
401 North Kings Highway
Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
Funeral Consumers Alliance of Greater Philadelphia
900 South Arlington Avenue, #211A
Harrisburg, PA 17109
Federal Trade Commission
State Board of Mortuary Science of New Jersey
P.O. Box 45009
Newark, NJ 07101
New Jersey Cemetery Board
P.O. Box 45036
Newark, NJ 07101
Pennsylvania Board of Funeral Directors
P.O. Box 2649
Harrisburg, PA 17105
International Cemetery, Cremation, and Funeral Association
107 Carpenter Drive, Suite 100
Sterling, VA 20164
National Funeral Directors Association
13625 Bishop’s Drive
Brookfield, WI 53005
New Jersey State Funeral Directors Association
P.O. Box L
Manasquan, NJ 08736-0642
Pennsylvania Funeral Directors Association
7441 Allentown Boulevard
Harrisburg, PA 17112