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Funeral home complaints: reasonable or unreasonable?

Jezebel recently posted some amusing “Grim Yelp Reviews” of funeral homes.

Here at FCA we regularly field complaints about funeral homes from consumers around the country. Most of these complaints are legitimate. A charge for something you did not receive, for example, or a misrepresentation of the law, is good reason to file a complaint. But we do hear from plenty of people who might be unfairly blaming the funeral home for something that is out of their control. 

There is no national database to consult to find the legal next-of-kin. Funeral directors need the family’s help for that. An adult child of the deceased might be upset that they weren’t notified when their father’s girlfriend arranged a funeral. While funeral directors are required to make a good faith effort to contact the next-of-kin, they are not required to demand identification such as a marriage certificate, or to be aware of or settle disputes between family members. If someone misrepresented themselves when arranging a funeral, the fault lies with them.

In some situations, there may be more than one legal next-of-kin, such as the divorced parents of a child, or multiple adult children, who can’t agree on a final method of disposition. If family in these cases cannot reach a decision about final arrangements, the funeral director is often made the unfair target of a family’s frustration. It is best for the family to try and resolve this themselves, but if an agreement can’t be made, they’ll have to settle it in probate court. 

Expecting funeral staff to act as bouncers to keep unwanted family members from attending a funeral is also unreasonable. If you suspect that someone might cause trouble at the funeral, let the staff know ahead of time so they can alert the police if need be. 

Funeral homes are not required to provide a payment plan for their customers. If you can’t afford the funeral you want today, then you shouldn’t buy it. All too often, we hear from folks who arranged and carried out a funeral beyond their means only to follow up by calling all around looking for a charity to cover the expenses. No charitable organization or goverment agency will help you pay for a full service funeral. You alone will be responsible for the bill. 

It is common to hear complaints about the appearance of the deceased, but it’s important to remember that the nature of one’s death, a long illness or some medications could lead to difficulties in making a body appear as it did in life. There are justified complaints of course, such as forgetting to put in dentures or a body leaking fluids, but parting the hair on the wrong side of dad’s head isn’t one of them.


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