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This article answers common questions about funeral homes. Read on to learn what they are, what they do and how to find one in your area.

What is a funeral home?

You can think of a funeral home as a funeral director’s headquarters. It acts as their office and as a meeting place for people to discuss funeral arrangements.

What happens at a funeral home?

Funeral homes are where funeral directors do most of their work. This includes things like handling paperwork, arranging a cremation or burial and booking a funeral venue. Learn more about what a funeral director does.

A funeral home also looks after the person who has died. It’s where their body is stored before burial or cremation.

Can you visit funeral homes?

Yes. If you’re arranging a funeral, you’ll probably visit the funeral home at least once. Here, you’ll meet your funeral director and talk about the kind of funeral you want.

The funeral home might also have a quiet area called a chapel of rest. People can visit the chapel of rest to view the person who has died and pay their respects.

Is a mortuary the same as a funeral home?

Some people use ‘mortuary’ and ‘funeral home’ to mean the same thing. But, strictly speaking, they’re not the same.

A mortuary is where bodies are looked after and kept safe before they’re buried or cremated. Mortuaries are often found inside funeral homes, as well as in hospitals and other health facilities.

What happens to a body at a funeral home?

First, the funeral director collects the body of the person who has died and takes it to the funeral home. Then they store and look after the person until the funeral takes place.

While the person is in their care, the funeral director will make sure their body looks peaceful and presentable. They might dress the person in smart clothes, style their hair and apply make-up. The person is then placed in the chapel of rest so the family can visit and view them.

If the person followed a particular faith, the funeral director may invite someone to perform religious rites. For example, when a Muslim dies, an imam or several family members will come to wash the body in accordance with Islamic law.

Do funeral homes embalm bodies? That depends on when the funeral is taking place. If it’s happening soon, there’s usually no need to embalm the person’s body. And for some types of burial, such as natural burials, embalming isn’t allowed. If you don’t want the person to be embalmed, make sure you mention this to the funeral director.

How are bodies transported from hospital to a funeral home?

Bodies are almost always transported by road, most often in a private ambulance or hearse.

How long will a funeral home hold ashes?

If a person is cremated, it’s often the funeral director’s job to collect the person’s ashes and give them to the family. This usually happens quite quickly, though most funeral directors will be happy to store the ashes if you need more time.

Sometimes, families don’t collect the ashes from their funeral director. When this happens, the funeral director will usually store them for a long time. Funeral industry guidelines say uncollected ashes should be stored for a minimum of five years. After this period, the funeral home can respectfully dispose of the ashes.

Does the funeral home get the death certificate?

It’s not the funeral home’s job to register a death or collect the death certificate. Only certain people can do this, including hospital officials and close relatives of the person who has died.

A funeral director can only arrange a funeral after a person’s death has been registered. When you register a death, you’re given a document – for free – called a Certificate for Burial or Cremation. This is commonly known as ‘the green form’. It’s the only document the funeral home needs.

If you’re not sure how to register a death, often the funeral home can give you advice. You can also read this article about how to register a death.

Are funeral homes regulated?

The government doesn’t enforce minimum standards for funeral homes. However, there are certain laws that funeral directors must follow:

  • Standardised price list: by law, funeral directors must publish prices for different types of funerals. This law came into effect in September 2021, after an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority.
  • FCA rules for funeral plans: since July 2022 funeral plans are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Funeral plans are a kind of savings plan for funerals – you can learn more about funeral plans here.

Many funeral homes also choose to join a trade body. This is a membership organisation that promotes good standards in an area of business.

There are two trade bodies for funeral directors in the UK. These are the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) and the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD). Both organisations publish minimum standards that members must follow.

Do funeral homes accept payment plans?

Some funeral homes expect to be paid in full before they do any work. Others allow you to pay in instalments, or ask for a deposit upfront and send a final bill later. It’s best to ask how payment works before you use a funeral director.

If your funeral director doesn't offer payment plans, you could look at other ways to spread the cost of a funeral. For instance, you might be able to claim a government or charity grant to help you pay for the funeral. You can learn more about all the options here.

How to find a funeral home

You can use our search tool to find funeral homes near you.

Simply enter your town or postcode to see a list of funeral directors, as well as prices for different types of funerals. You can click through to learn more about a funeral director or give them a call on the number provided.

Funeral Choice helps people find affordable funeral homes in their area. You can find more funeral help and information in our advice centre.

Photo by Frazao studio on iStock.