How To Protect Yourself When Using A Funeral Director

Choosing a funeral director to arrange a loved ones funeral can be overwhelming and confusing, especially during what can be an emotional time. You may be anxious about the cost, what kinds of services will be included, or how your loved one will be cared for until the funeral and burial.  

In light of recent tragic incidents involving a funeral director in Hull, members of the public are learning that the funeral industry in the UK is unregulated by the government. We understand that this may be shocking and upsetting, especially if you are in the process of arranging a funeral for a loved one, or have purchased a prepaid funeral plan. To learn more about how the funeral industry in the UK is regulated read our guide here.

The Farewell Guide understands that the care and dignity of your loved ones are of the utmost importance when choosing the right funeral director, especially in an unregulated industry.  

We’ve put together this 10 step guide to help consumers protect themselves and their loved ones throughout the process of finding and using a funeral director.  

In this guide we’ll cover: 

  1. How to check for membership of industry trade bodies. 

  2. How to check for good and bad reviews of funeral directors in your area. 

  3. Questions to ask regarding the care of your loved one on the funeral director’s premises. 

  4. How to check FCA regulations for prepaid funerals. 

  5. How to learn about ethical standards of funeral directors. 

  6. What to include in a contract. 

  7. How to file a complaint against a funeral director.

  8. How to find a verified funeral director on The Farewell Guide.  

  9. Your rights as a consumer.  

  10. Find a funeral director on The Farewell Guide. 

1. Check the funeral director’s website for associations 

You may feel more comfortable choosing a funeral director that is a current member of one of the UK’s funeral industry trade bodies. Though the funeral industry is not regulated by the government, many funeral directors are voluntary members of two main trade bodies: the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) and the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF). These organisations have their own codes of conduct and some regular site inspections for members.  
Check the funeral director’s website for a badge or logo confirming their membership to NAFD or SAIF.  

2. Cross check for their membership  

If you want to be doubly sure of the funeral director’s current membership to the regulatory bodies, you can look them up on the NAFD or SAIF websites. Cross checking to verify membership may give you greater peace of mind when choosing a funeral director. IS the membership still in date for example? 
You can find NAFD members in your area here

You can find SAIF members in your area here

3. Check reviews 

Checking Google reviews is an excellent way to see if a funeral director has provided high quality services to the public in recent times. You can see how many positive or negative reviews they have. You can also glean detailed information about their level of service, the services they provide, and how pleased previous costumes have been with them. Funeral directors websites often show reviews from recent customers, but these may be the reviews the funeral director has chosen to publish to their own site, not independently collated on a third party site like Google Reviews..  

4. Ask questions on how your loved one will be cared for onsite 

We know that it can feel uncomfortable or awkward to think or talk about how your loved one’s body will be cared for at the funeral director’s premises. We want you to know that asking questions about how your loved one will be cared for is welcomed and encouraged by funeral directors. Here are some basic questions we recommend you could ask your funeral director:  

  • Where will my loved one be kept until the day of the funeral? 
  • Can we see your facilities or back of house premises? 
  • Can I visit my loved one before the funeral? 
  • What do you usually do when someone is taken into your care? 
  • Who will be taking care of my loved one? 
  • Can I be involved in washing and dressing my loved one? 
  • What is your policy on embalming? 
  • Will my loved one be washed/groomed by a staff member of the same sex? 
  • Will my loved one be groomed/dressed according to my specifications?  
  • Will you be able to provide proof of collection of my loved one’s ashes from the crematorium?  
  • What container will we receive the ashes in? 

5. Get a contract 

For added peace of mind, you may opt to get a written contract drawn out to ensure the funeral director provides services to the best of their abilities and according to the wishes of the bereaved. A contract will ensure that all parties are on the same page concerning the privacy, dignity and care of the person who has died.  
What you can include in the contract: 
- How the person who has died will be cared for. 
- Who will be caring for the person who has died. 
- Safeguards protecting the privacy and dignity of the person who has died. 
- Specifications for the grooming and dressing of the person who has died. 
- Arrangements for visitation of the person who has died on the funeral director’s premises.  


6. Check FCA regulations for prepaid funeral plans 

If you or your loved one is looking at taking out a prepaid funeral plan, you can check with the FCA (the Financial Conduct Authority) to see if your provider is authorised to sell prepaid funeral plans. 
The FCA website provides a list of companies that are barred from providing prepaid funerals, as well as more information on what you can do if your provider is unauthorised or engaged in unlawful activity. If you need to complain, you can do so at the Financial Ombudsman Service.

7. Learn about funding support 

A funeral is one of the most expensive purchases a person will make in their lifetime. Funerals in the UK can be expensive, and some people may even geto into debt paying for one. Many funeral providers offer flexible payment plans and funding support. You can learn more about this here. 

8. Learn more about their ethical standards 

Funeral directors must follow a strict code of ethical guidelines, either self-imposed or imposed by a regulatory body. Most funeral directors will have these ethical standards posted on their website or on their premises. If they are a current member of NAFD or SAIF, they will be required to follow the codes of conduct set by them.  
SAIF’s Code of Practice aims to help bereaved families when choosing a funeral director to understand the minimum standards they should expect. These strict guidelines include specifications for the care of the deceased and funeral director’s premises. You can find the Code here. 
IFSO – the Independent Funeral Standards Organisation – provides quality assurance that members of NAFD uphold and deliver the highest possible standards to bereaved and deceased people in their care. You can view the Funeral Director Code here. 

9. Know how to file a complaint 

You may find yourself in an unfortunate situation and need to file a complaint against a funeral director. There are currently three avenues available to consumers in the UK: 

  • Complaining directly to the funeral director and seeing if the issue can be resolved. 
  • Complaining to one of the trade bodies (if the funeral director is a current member) using their dedicated helplines. 
  • Taking legal action against the funeral director. 

If the funeral provider is a current SAIF member you can file a complaint here. 
If the funeral provider is a current NAFD member, you can seek conflict resolution via NAFD Resolve helpline. 
If a funeral director has broken the law you can complain to Trading Standards here.
Alternativelly, you can always ask for help from Citizens Advice. 

10. Find a funeral director on The Farewell Guide

 Every funeral director in The Farewell Guide’s directory goes through a strict screening process before they are approved. This is how funeral directors are screened by the Farewell Guide team: 

  • Their address and contact details provided must match and are verified. 
  • Check any listing on Companies House, past and present. 
  • Check online for bad reviews or negative press articles. 
  • Current or previous membership of at least 1 trade body or association of funeral directors. 
  • They must be regulated by the FCA if they offer prepaid funerals. 
  • The Farewell Guide team does a welcome/verification call with them. 
  • A standardised price list must be added to The Farewell Guide to bring transparency of pricing to users. 
  • Reviews are added to their profile and negative reviews are flagged. 
  • Funeral directors are told that The Farewell Guide team may visit unannounced to check the premises.  

Find and compare funeral directors here. 

Your Rights As A Consumer  

 When buying a funeral plan or arranging a funeral for a loved one it’s important to know what your rights are as a consumer in the UK. Under the law, you have the right to be protected from any financial or emotional harm that may occur when using the services of a funeral director.  
When you pay for a funeral, you reserve the rights to: 
1. Receive funeral services with the utmost care and skill from the funeral director. 
2. Receive a funeral within the date and time agreed upon. 
3. Receive a funeral at the agreed upon price.  

Your other rights include: 
1. You are not required by law to use an undertaker. 
2. There is no legal requirement to have a funeral. 
3. Embalming is not legally required, unless you wish to transport the body overseas. 
4. You have more options than just burial or cremation. 
5. Funeral instructions are not legally binding. 
6. According to the law, nobody owns a dead body. 

If in doubt, reach out to us 

If at any point during the funeral arranging process you feel as though you or your loved one’s rights have been violated, do not hesitate to reach out to The Farewell Guide for assistance and advice. Our utmost priority is to help consumers make informed and safe decisions when buying a funeral plan or arranging a funeral for their loved ones.  

Contact The Farewell Guide here. 

Read more about how The Farewell Guide is changing an unregulated funeral industry.