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Do you need a funeral director? The pros and cons

When a loved one passes, we may think we know what to expect — we’ll feel profound grief and loss, and we’ll need to plan a funeral, burial, or memorial. Yet this sounds easier than it often is, especially when you’re grieving. The truth is that end-of-life arrangements are much more involved. There are forms, permits, and many other tasks that only add to the stress and grief you’re already feeling. 

But do you need a funeral director? Funerals and memorials are deeply personal, and some people want to make arrangements themselves because they know their loved one best. But before you answer “no” to a funeral director, consider your state’s funeral legal requirements, as well as everything a funeral director can help you with during your time of mourning. 

Do you need a funeral director?

Funeral legal requirements vary by state, but most don’t require you to use a funeral home or funeral director. However, nine states do require you to hire a funeral director for certain tasks, such as applying for the death certificate and transporting the body: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, and Louisiana. You’ll also need to use a funeral service for embalming, cremation, and certain special circumstances, such as repatriating a body by air. To find out all of the laws and requirements where you live, contact your local office of vital records. 

Even if your state permits you to not use a funeral director, there are still laws you must follow for registering the death and disposition of the body. Many states also require a burial to happen within a certain amount of time. On top of that, without a funeral director, you’ll be completely responsible for cleaning and potentially dressing the deceased as well as making all of the arrangements. Taking on these funeral director duties can add more stress to an already stressful time. 

One benefit many people cite to not having a funeral director is the lower cost of taking a do-it-yourself approach. But when you’re wondering, “Do I need a funeral director?” take into account the time and effort all these things require. Even if you do save money, it may not be worth the extra trouble. If you decide to work with a funeral director, you can choose which services you’d like and which aren’t necessary. For example, you could ask the funeral director to do more complicated tasks or those you don’t want to do, leaving you time to focus on other things that need to be done. 

What does a funeral director do?

A funeral director takes care of a variety of end-of-life necessities, including providing a casket or urn, receiving and preserving the deceased, transporting, arranging a cremation, cleaning and dressing the body, and cosmetic preparation if you’ll have a viewing. Funeral director duties also include organizing and hosting the viewing, ceremony, and burial, including seating, catering, and more. 

They will also be familiar with all the laws, regulations, and processes you’ll need to go through. There are strict rules regarding when death certificates must be filed, and in most states, you’ll need a disposition permit in order to transport and bury your loved one’s remains. 

So do you need a funeral director? Making arrangements is certainly easier if you have one. You’ll have enough to think about when a loved one passes; there’s no need to add more to your plate. 

Ultimately, the answer to the question “Do you need a funeral director?” may not be as straightforward as it first appears. If you’re considering not using a funeral director, be sure to research your state’s laws and fully understand what is required of you. While the majority of states allow you to not use a funeral service, the benefits they provide are often worth the cost. 

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