Where to Get Help Making Decisions About Planning a Funeral
Last updated in 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 typically do not pay for funerals or choose a specific funeral home for you, but the People’s Memorial Association, which is the memorial society serving the Puget Sound area, is somewhat unique in that it operates its own funeral home.
Below, we list contact information for the People's 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.
People’s Memorial Association
1801 12th Avenue, Suite A
Seattle, WA 98122
Funeral Consumers Alliance
33 Patchen Road
South Burlington, VT 05403
Washington State Department of Licensing
Funeral and Cemetery Licensing
P.O. Box 9012
Olympia, WA 98507
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
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
Washington State Funeral Directors Association
500 S. 336th Street, Suite 218
Federal Way, WA 98023
Better Business Bureau
1000 Station Drive, Suite 222
P.O. Box 100
DuPont, WA 98327