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How Funeral Directors Can Help a Family

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Eight important tasks that the professionals will help you with

A funeral director can be one of your most important allies in the days and weeks after a loved one's death. Whether the funeral was prepared for years in advance, or the death was unexpected and you're making all the arrangements in a grief-stricken hurry, there's so much you can lean on a funeral director for. Here are some of the primary things a funeral director helps a family with.

Transporting the body. When a death has occurred, the funeral home is one of the first phone calls you'll make. If your loved one died in the hospital, at home, or somewhere else, the funeral director will arrange for their body to be transported to the funeral home, where preparations for services will begin. Even when a death occurs far from home, in another state or country, the funeral director is the one who takes point on getting your loved one's body home.

If you're at this stage — calling a funeral home immediately after a death — and you don't know what funeral home to call, our comprehensive local funeral home directory may help you make the decision.

Making funeral arrangements. When you contact the funeral home right after the death, you can also schedule a time to get together and make the arrangements for services and body disposition (burial, cremation, etc.). You'll talk about when and where services will take place, what type of visitation you want (if any), whether graveside services will be private, whether military honors will be presented, and so on. The funeral home is typically available as a location for services, but the funeral director can also help make arrangements for services at a church or other location.

Managing the services. Once all the arrangements are made, the funeral home also does the work to make sure those services you planned together run smoothly. They'll secure the locations and make sure all the timing works out. They'll find you the right musicians and funeral officiant if you wish. They'll arrange the displays of photo boards and mementos of your loved one that you've chosen to include. They'll have service programs printed and distribute them to guests. They'll manage the many flower arrangements that may be delivered. They can make arrangements for catering if you wish to have that as a part of services.

You've most likely seen funeral directors at funerals you've attended in the past — they may not be front and center, but they're very busy helping people get where they need to be, answering questions, and coordinating every last detail.

Writing and submitting an obituary for publication. You may choose to write your loved one's obituary — or they may have written their own, prior to their death — but if you prefer to leave that job to someone else, the funeral home can take care of writing the obituary based on information you provide. They can also submit the obituary, regardless of who wrote it, to your local newspapers as well as to papers in other areas where the deceased lived in the past.

Setting up a memorial fund. If you're planning on requesting memorial donations to the family to cover funeral expenses, or you'd like to set up any other sort of memorial fund in your loved one's name, the funeral director can make it happen. They can also collect donations at the funeral home — in person at services as well as those mailed in by friends who couldn't be there — and distribute them as you direct.

Tying up loose ends. You'll probably need multiple copies of the death certificate in the days and weeks after the death. You'll often use them as proof of the death as you settled your loved one's affairs. The funeral director can do what needs to be done to secure the death certificate for you. The funeral director will also notify the Social Security Administration of your loved one's death.

Helping you pre-plan your own (or a loved one's) funeral. If you've gone through setting up a funeral at the last minute, you may feel strongly about making sure things are better planned for the next one. A funeral director can work with you in advance to plan your own funeral or that of a loved one. Everything from locations to body disposition to fine details can be planned in advance, and you can even pay in advance to spare loved ones from financial headaches after death. If a family member is entering a nursing home and needs to do a spend-down of assets to qualify for aid, a funeral director can also help you with pre-paying for funeral services as part of the spend-down.

Connecting you with advice and support. A funeral director can point you toward local or online grief support resources to help you cope as you move past the funeral. And if there's something else you need in the wake of your loved one's death, and you're not sure where to turn, you might try asking the funeral director. They tend to have great connections and may be able to help you in ways you didn't expect.