Six myths about funeral directors that are causing confusion among bereaved families

05/12/2022   //   No Comments

Everyone’s got it in for funeral directors these days. From distressing stories about price gouging to the pretence that everyone wants to be packed off in a cardboard box without any fuss, the humble undertaker faces a bewildering barrage of criticism. But are these attacks based on the truth or are they baseless? Here we dispel six common myths that are leaving families unsure about their funeral options.   

1. A funeral will cost you more than £4,000

We’ve all seen the reports by big insurance companies which combine the cost of UK burial and cremation funeral services to come up with an eye watering average fee for a funeral service. But these surveys, while based on bona fide data, can be misleading. If you dig a little deeper, you’ll most likely discover that in many parts of the country the actual charge for a cremation funeral is well below the fee suggested by the research. Bereaved families who shop around can often find a local independent funeral director who will arrange a funeral for as much as 25% lower than the ‘average’ cost. A simple funeral including crematorium fees can be arranged for significantly below £4,000 in many places. Beware reports by life insurance companies, which have a vested interest in people being worried about the price of a funeral.   

2. Funeral directors want to sell you the most expensive funeral possible

In recent years, it’s been impossible to avoid tales of bereaved families being left distraught after receiving an invoice far in excess of what was expected when they sat down with the funeral director in an arrangement meeting. In reality, no independent funeral director in membership of SAIF wants to be in that position. Our Code of Practice and the Competition and Markets Authority Funerals Market Investigation Order 2021 both require SAIF independent funeral directors to give bereaved families a full costings estimate before proceeding with arranging the funeral. As business owners, the last thing funeral directors want is to saddle a grieving family with a debt they cannot service. For those reasons, SAIF members will provide the best funeral for your circumstances. And it’s good to know that no matter how much you wish to spend on your funeral, a SAIF independent funeral director will treat you with the same care and professionalism.

3. Direct cremation is the cheapest way to do a no fuss funeral

Adverts for direct cremation funerals abound these days. It’s hard to turn on daytime TV without being bombarded with alluring messages about how a direct cremation will remove the hassle from arranging a funeral. Well, here’s a little secret. A good independent funeral director is all about removing the hassle from arranging a funeral. Many small businesses have been doing just that for bereaved families for decades if not centuries. And here’s another secret. A direct cremation is not a funeral. It’s merely a process for disposing of human remains. It might be appropriate in some circumstances but it’s devoid of any farewell and ceremony, and careful consideration should be given before going down this route as it might complicate the grief journey. 

4. Small funeral businesses don’t offer direct cremation

Research by SAIF found that a large portion of the public believed their local independent funeral director did not offer direct cremation. This perception is probably due to aggressive advertising campaigns by national providers, who transport deceased people across the country to a central crematorium for what is essentially a conveyor belt service. But as a matter of fact, your local independent funeral director will most likely be able to arrange a direct cremation. And what’s more, it will be delivered with dignity. Loved ones will be cared for locally, giving bereaved families a chance to spend precious time saying goodbye if they wish. There may also be an option to witness the committal with a small group of close friends or relatives. This is not possible with a national provider, whose business objectives are the commodification of funerals for the benefit of remote shareholders and big investors.      

5. It’s impossible for bereaved families to shop around 

Some people believe that once you’ve crossed the threshold of a funeral director’s premises, you’re most likely to use that company’s services even if it’s the first business you’ve approached. The truth is, many people use a local funeral director because they have a good reputation in their neighbourhood and are trusted by generations of families. But as society changes, thanks to digital technology, it’s never been easier to compare funeral directors using online tools. It’s also now a legal requirement for funeral businesses to display their full price list on any digital channels they use, as well as in the windows of their premises. But as with any service, whether it’s a building contractor or a mechanic, choosing the right provider for your circumstances should go beyond price considerations. You’ll also want them to do a good job and meet your expectations on a range of fronts, from attention to detail and location to availability and products and services offered.  

6. Funeral directors expect families to pay a large deposit

In recent years, media reports about the funeral profession have highlighted that some funeral directors have demanded a deposit from bereaved families before proceeding with arranging the funeral. There’s a bit of a misunderstanding here. Most if not all funeral directors will ask for a deposit up front. But that isn’t due to a lack of trust. The charges, which can be as much as 50% of the total invoice, or virtually all of it in the case of direct cremation, are paid up front merely to cover third party costs, such as cremation or burial and doctors’ fees. These are also known as the disbursements. The funeral director’s invoice is issued after the funeral has been delivered. 

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