Funeral homes are licensed by the state where they do business and are generally regulated by some type of State regulatory organization or board. They are also subject to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations that govern the funeral industry. The FTC’s Funeral Rule is designed to help protect consumers from pressure to buy items they don’t need and ensure that funeral homes provide transparent pricing.
Funeral homes today are either owned and operated by a family or a group of private individuals or they are owned and operated by a corporation such as Service Corporation International (SCI), StoneMor, or Carriage Services. These corporations (also known as consolidators) started buying up family owned funeral firms back in the 1980’s and 1990’s but the trend reversed a bit in the 2000’s when the consolidators found difficulty in operating these firms following large volume acquisitions.
When you work with a funeral home, the person who works with you is generally a funeral director. Funeral directors are trained professionals who manage manage some, or all, of the funeral arrangements. They also take care of the technical services regarding the care, preparation, presentation, and final disposition of the deceased. In addition to working with funeral homes, funeral directors may be hired through a funeral home or mortuary, memorial societies, and alternative funeral service organizations. You may also hear funeral directors referred to as “morticians” or “undertakers.”
Funeral directors are typically educated at an undergraduate college and a mortuary college. Licensing requirements are established on a state-by-state basis and are governed by a funeral service regulatory board in each state. To become licensed, many states require a funeral director serve an internship and pass a state board examination. Oftentimes, a funeral director’s license is required to manage a funeral home.
What Funeral Directors & Funeral Homes Do
Funeral homes and funeral directors handle the many details that go into caring for someone who is deceased. They also make all the arrangements for the funeral and memorial services. Below are some of the items that your funeral home and funeral director will handle.
- Available 24-hours a day to immediately respond when a death occurs.
- Remove the deceased from the place of death to a funeral home or other facility.
- Consult with survivors and assisting in funeral plans.
- Arrange the embalming, sanitary washing, dressing, cosmetology, hairdressing, and restoration (if required) of the body.
- Handle administrative matters such as filing the death certificate, publishing death notices and obituaries, files death claim benefits.
- Provide funeral products, such as caskets, vaults, urns, memorial chests, etc.
- Provide stationery products such as guest register books, memorial folders, prayer cards, acknowledgement cards, etc.
- Coordinate plans with clergy, cemetery, and/or crematory.
- Provide transportation for deceased and family members.
- Secure facilities for visitations and services.
- Provide music, flowers, and other elements of the funeral.
- Supervise visitations, funeral ceremonies and processions.
Alternatives to Traditional Funeral Homes
As the market for funeral services has grown more competitive, new options have begun to spring up. While this is good because it means you have more choices, it can also create confusion about where to turn. The table below summarizes the services offered by the various types of funeral service providers.
Who to call …
|When you need:||Funeral Home||Storefront|
|Cremation Service||Memorial Society**||Cemetery||Specialty Provider||Monument Company||Specialty|
|To transfer the body from place of death||●||●||●||●|
|To prepare and present the body||●||●||●||●|
|To direct funeral services||●||●||●||●|
|Caskets, urns,vaults, etc.||●||●||●||●||●||●|
|Grave marker installation|
|Burial or crypt space||●|
|Cremated remains scattered||●||At Sea Burial Company|
|Filing of legal documents||●||●||●||●|
|To publish the obituary||●||●||●||●||Newspaper|
*A Storefront Funeral Service is a company that provides funeral services but does not use a standalone building. The facilities, may, for example, be in a strip shopping center or an office building. In recent years we have see companies offering both burial and cremation services take advantage of existing buildings rather than owning or leasing standalone space.
**A Memorial Society is a non-religious, non-profit group that offers low cost end-of-life services. These group are generally membership-based and require some level of volunteer activity. They will negotiate favorable pricing with funeral service providers and make these services available to their members.