As soon as you learn of the death, or as soon as you decide it's time to start making arrangements, GET A GOOD FRIEND BY YOUR SIDE! This is mandatory. Don't even allow the body to be moved until your 'partner' is by your side and you have talked.
This should be someone with some backbone -- someone who is not a Yes Man--and someone whose opinions you trust. You'll be under pressure to make decisions soon, and there will be sad-eyed salesmen with sincere voices (and profit-motives!) trying to 'help' you make them. It would help if your partner has been through the funeral arrangement ordeal recently, and help even more if it is someone who is NOT closely related to the deceased (or soon-to-be deceased). Identify this person as early in the process as possible and discuss things with them, particularly your budget. They can help you stick to it.
In the realm of funeral services is a group of charges entitled Nondeclineable Fees. These fees cover such things as receiving the body, embalming, dressing, etc ... and, as the name would imply, there is NO NEGOTIATION on this charge. If the deceased died out-of-town or even out-of-state, call the funeral home in the city where the services will ultimately be held.
WHY? Because they can call a national company that specializes in these services (so long as you are sure to tell them to!) and have the body picked up, embalmed, and delivered for shipment for about $600 ... without you having to pay Nondeclineable Fees -- $1500 - $2500 or more! -- to BOTH* funeral homes. This decision alone can save you $1000- $2,000 or more in total funeral expenses. These national companies are listed by name in the book and, no, you cannot call them direct.
* A case in point occurred recently in New England where a funeral home charged over $6000 to pick-up, prepare, and deliver a body to the funeral home handling the services ... a mere 90-minute drive away. This happens often, don't let it happen to you.
The Affordable Funeral; Going in Style, Not in Debt, covers funeral service charges in detail, along with suggestions on how you can get what you want without paying a fortune. Often just knowing how to phrase your request can mean a difference of hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Do YOU know the difference between a FUNERAL and a MEMORIAL SERVICE? What do you really know about 'final expense insurance' and pre-payment plans?
Now that you have your friend at your side and you've bought some time by leaving the body at the hospital or morgue for a few hours -- DON'T LET ANYONE HURRY YOU! -- you can begin the arrangements in an orderly fashion, assuming you already know where it will end. Like planning a journey, the arrangement process begins at the end and works its way back to the 'now'.
WHERE WILL IT END?
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