The responsibilities of a funeral home vary; however, it’s common for funeral home directors to not only work closely with family members to plan a memorial service, but also to handle paperwork associated with a person’s death, pick up the body from the mortuary, prepare the body for services, host the memorial service, and organize and oversee the burial process at a local cemetery.
Funeral home directors handle all of the paperwork surrounding the death certificate of the deceased person. The funeral director and the attending physician share joint responsibility of completing and signing the death certificate. The funeral director may also help in requesting veterans’ burial benefits, informing the Social Security Administration of the death, or applying for the transfer of any pensions, insurance policies or annuities on behalf of survivors.
The funeral director also must provide a “Statement of Goods and Services” for the family to approve and sign showing the price of selected services and/or merchandise.
Pick up the Body
A funeral home director is responsible for transporting in a timely manner the body from the mortuary, coroner’s or medical examiner’s office to the funeral home.
Prepare the Body
After picking up the body, the funeral director or his staff will prepare the body for memorial services. This includes embalming, which involves cleaning the body (including the eyes and mouth) with antibacterial soaps to eliminate bacteria and contagions, washing away makeup, blood and other bodily fluids, brushing hair, and closing the eyes and mouth of the deceased with specialized closing techniques.
Each state has its own laws regarding embalming, but most states agree the body must be embalmed if it is to cross borders for a burial or funeral. This also allows the family to make travel arrangements for out-of-town family and to arrange the funeral if it was not pre-planned.
Host Memorial Services
A funeral director helps family members plan the memorial services. This may include helping the family with obituary notices and selecting music, poems or psalms, flowers, a headstone, and a casket or urn while remaining conscious of the family’s financial budget. He will also inform the family of the time, date, place and details of the services.
Typically, memorial services are held at the funeral home, but a funeral director will usually help assist in securing other arrangements if the family wishes to have the viewing or funeral elsewhere, such as a church. He also will prepare and decorate the sites of all services and ensure transportation for the remains, mourners and flowers between sites.
Organize Burial Process
A funeral director works closely with the family, their church and the cemetery to ensure the burial process goes smoothly. The funeral director will help select the time, date and place of the burial, as well as who will officiate at the ceremony. He also will lead the drive to the cemetery or other place of internment, and may organize events at the burial site, such as any prayers, speeches or rituals.
If a person is to be cremated, the funeral director is responsible for setting a time for the cremation, picking up the remains from the crematorium and moving the remains into an urn or other internment container.
- Thai funeral image by Adrian Hillman from Fotolia.com