Can You Trust Your Funeral Home? 5 Ways to Make Sure You Are Making a Good Choice

Tour the funeral home

If you are going through the difficult and heart-wrenching process of burying a loved one, the trustworthiness of a funeral home is probably not at the top of your list of concerns. Most funeral homes treat their customers with the respect and sensitivity that you would expect, however it is not always clear what may be going on behind closed doors.

In a shocking reveal, newly hired funeral home employee in Panama City, Florida found several decomposing bodies, improperly stored and mishandled in the funeral home’s storage area. Although it is nothing short of atrocious that something like this could happen, it is essential to be on the lookout for red flags. Here are a few ways to protect yourself when making this important decision:

1. Take a Tour of the Facility

This is especially true if you notice that the front of the house is not well maintained. In many cases, a funeral home will not only be happy to show you around, they will make a tour part of your consultation. Being wary of showing the facility is a sign that something may be amiss.

2. Find Reviews

Nowadays, it is easy to find reviews on just about every business; funeral homes are no exception. Take a look at the funeral home’s listing on Yelp or Facebook, or if you prefer an even more credible source, talk to others who may have been customers there. In most cases, if there is something to be concerned about, it will be flagged in reviews.

3. Consult the Better Business Bureau

The BBB is an excellent source of historical information about any complaints or issues that a business may have experienced. If there is any evidence of wrongdoing or if, on the other hand, a funeral home is doing a great job, you will be able to find out through the Better Business Bureau.

4. Check Out the Website

This may be something that you have already done, but reviewing a funeral home’s website could be a great way to find out how professional and reliable they are—is the website up-to-date? Is there credible information readily available? All of these can give you cues on whether or not a particular funeral home is a good choice for you.

5. How Long Have They Been in Business?

While it would be unfair to say that newer funeral homes are not providing good services, the length of time one has been in business is a legitimate way to gauge trust. Most reputable funeral homes have been operating for decades and have a strong, recognizable presence in their communities. If you find a newer funeral home, no need to automatically discount it, but you might want to look even closer at their website, their facility and their reviews.

A bit of research can go a long way in ensuring that you are dealing with an honest, respectable funeral home.

A Changing Landscape: Funeral Homes in the 21st Century

Phaneuf has many options for today's funerals

Death is a given, yet many funeral homes are seeing a notable decline in business. Of course, lower death rates are hardly cause to lament, yet it is interesting to observe how an industry that has stayed essentially the same for decades is now tasked with the need for a significant evolution.  As culture shifts become ever more apparent, customers become more savvy in their end-of-life choices and religion becomes less of a concern, funeral homes must adjust to a new generation and, perhaps, a new business model. Continue reading

Digital Estate Management: What Is It and Why Might You Need it?

Digital Estate Planning

When you lose someone you love, the last thing on our mind may be their social media accounts or the various digital profiles that they may have created in life. But imagine coming across comments or friend requests on their Facebook, or navigating emails from distant acquaintances who have not heard of their passing. Imagine discovering debt acquired through ongoing payment plans for services to which you did not know they subscribed. Unfortunately, this is a common scenario in today’s world of extensive online presence.

You are already dealing with planning funeral arrangements, supporting other family members and friends and working through your own grief, how can you also take on the frustrating and lengthy process of shutting down various social accounts? Maybe you don’t have to go it alone. Continue reading

What You Need to Know About Body Donation

Body donation for medical research

Although a far less common option than burial or cremation, whole-body donation is a valid and highly beneficent choice. There are many medical research facilities that will accept donations and, with them, make strides in research and education. To many, this may seem like a very extreme decision, one that their families may oppose. In order to clarify some of the details around the process, we have compiled some of the most commonly asked questions about body donations. Continue reading

“Funeral” or “Memorial” – How to Decide

In Remembrance

Although the gap between the two terms has slowly been closing, there is still a difference between funerals and memorials. Most notably, a funeral will have the body of the deceased present while a memorial service will not. While this is, in essence, the only major difference, over the years each tribute has developed its own distinct feel. When thinking what might be the more appropriate plan for you and your loved ones, take these factors into consideration. Continue reading

Cremation vs Burial: What is Right for You?

Cremation or BurialAfter a loved one has passed away, there are many decisions to be made. Not the least of these is how to deal with the remains in a respectful manner. While in many cases the deceased may have expressly made their wishes known, there are certainly situations where the bereaved family has to decide how to proceed; should you go with cremation or burial? The answer may not come easily, but considering the points below may just lead you to the choice that is right for you.


Cremation has seen a rise in popularity lately for a number of reasons, the top ones being:


Cost is frequently a big concern for a family dealing with a loss. Funerals can be a significant financial burden and there is no question that cremation offers a sizable cut in price. While cremation can cost anywhere between $1,500 to $3,000, some burials can cost more than $10,000.


It may be that you have a special way in which you would like to remember your loved one; maybe this is not embodied with a visitation to a gravesite. Nowadays there are a variety of ways in which a deceased person may be memorialized and cremation offers an easy way to make this happen. Ashes may be sprinkled at particularly special spot, mixed in with seeds to grow a tree or even made a fixture in the family home.

No Ties to Particular Location

If a loved one is buried, his or her remains are forever interred in a particular place. With families so frequently living spread out across the country or even the world, this may not be the ideal situation. Additionally, a burial site does not typically have much meaning to either the deceased or their family. Cremation allows the family to decide how their loved one is remembered and also where their remains will rest—offering the best possibility for family members and friends to visit and reconnect with the one they’ve lost.


Despite certain appeals of cremation, burial remains the time-honored, traditional choice for a large number of families. Here’s why:

A Concrete Way to Say Goodbye

The power of ceremony should not be discounted. Saying goodbye to a body may offer more meaning than doing the same to an urn of ashes. For some, the last act of seeing their loved one descend into their eternal rest is significant and offers a great deal of closure that cremation may not be able to match.

More Environmentally-Friendly

Most people would be surprised to hear that a burial can actually be far more environmentally friendly than cremation; this is because a great deal of energy and fossil fuels are expended when cremating. Burial on the other hand has the potential to be the most natural way to return a body to its natural state. Although embalming fluids and metal caskets present a challenge to natural decomposition, there are now greener alternatives, such as biodegradable containers and replacement oils that can ensure that your loved one returns to the earth safely and naturally.

Alleviates Religious Concerns

In many religions, cremation is either forbidden or not recommended. Even if you or your family do not share this belief, it would be important to consider whether your loved one may have held similar concerns.

It is important to note that regardless of which process you choose, the opportunity for saying goodbye, in the form of memorial services or family gatherings, remains the same. Take the time to think the time to think through your and your family’s wishes and concerns before making an informed decision with which you can feel at peace.

Some FAQs About Final Arrangements

Flowers at a cemetery

If you’re lucky, you’ve never had to make funeral or cremation arrangements. For most people, however, the time will come when final arrangements will need to be made for a family member or friend and there are several things you’ll need to know. To help, we’ve taken some frequently asked questions about final arrangements and provided the answers:

My loved one just died. Now what do I do?

If the death is unanticipated, call 911. The police will take appropriate steps depending upon the situation. In the case of a non-suspicious death of an apparently healthy individual, the police call the State Medical Examiner’s office and await instructions. If the death was suspicious in nature, then the Medical Examiner will most likely order an autopsy.

When is it time to call the funeral home?

A family member should call the funeral home as soon as possible. The staff at the funeral home understands the stress you’re going through and will make sure to make the process as simple and smooth as possible. We will ask some specific questions, such as the name and location of the family member who passed away, the name of the attending physician and the name of the next of kin.

Who makes the funeral arrangements?

The person who has legal authority to authorize the funeral service, such as an executor or designated next of kin, makes the arrangements. Immediate family members and close friends may want to help. However, the person who authorizes the service accepts financial responsibility for the arrangements.

 How much does a funeral cost?

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the median cost of a funeral and burial is $7,181. The final cost depends on a variety of factors, includes what services you want and which merchandise (flowers, casket, etc.) you buy. We will work with you to give you the funeral you want within your budget. And we’re transparent about pricing: You can find all of our rates and charges on our website.

What does cremation cost?

The NFDA reports that the median cost of a funeral with viewing and cremation is $6,078. However, we have simple packages starting at $1,295. As with funerals, the final cost depends on the service and merchandise that you desire. Again, all of our prices can be found on our website.

Can you have a funeral if you’re cremated?

Just because someone is cremated does not mean that the family cannot have a viewing and funeral service. All of the customs and ceremonies associated with a traditional funeral can still be performed prior to the cremation taking place. For these occasions, we offer economical cremation caskets and rental caskets.

Does the funeral home handle cemetery arrangements?

If a burial plot has not been purchased, the person making the arrangements will have to work with the cemetery to purchase a burial or entombment space. Some funeral director can make these arrangements on behalf of a family.

Do I need to order a casket from the funeral home.

You do not have to buy a casket from the funeral home. Federal law requires the funeral provider to accept one you provide from another source. So shop around; it may be that the funeral home has the best price. But if you’re looking for something they don’t carry, you can look  elsewhere.

Does the body have to be embalmed?

No, in New Hampshire embalming is not required by law. However, embalming is required if the family has selected a funeral service with a public wake or viewing. Embalming is also required if the deceased is to be transported from one state to another by common carrier. For example, if an individual passes away in Florida and is to be transported by airplane to New Hampshire for burial, embalming would be required.

Do I need a death certificate and where do I get it?

Official death certificate copies are typically required for multiple legal purposes, including:

  • Notifying Social Security
  • Notifying insurance companies (life insurance, vehicle insurance, etc.; 1 for each policy held)
  • Notifying mortgage and/or title companies (1 for each property or company)
  • Notifying banks, credit card companies, and/or investment companies (1 for each account)
  • Applying for Veterans benefits, if your loved one was a Veteran
  • Changing vehicle registration and/or titles
  • Probating an estate.

You can order death certificates right on our website. They cost under $25.

What will I need to bring to the funeral home when making arrangements?

Some of the things you’ll need include:

  • Birth certificate
  • Military discharge papers (form DD 214)
  • List of surviving relatives and their cities of residence
  • Recent photograph for cosmetizing and hair styling
  • Insurance papers (if used to pay for the funeral)
  • Pre-arrangement funeral data (if any)
  • Cemetery deed
  • Clothing
  • Personal items, such as jewelry, eye glasses and religious items.

If you have any other questions, our staff will be happy to answer them. Just call us toll-free at 1-800-PHANEUF or at (603) 625-5777. Or request our free brochure and planning guide that  explains our burial and cremation services, package options, veterans services and packages, and provides full disclosure of all of our prices. You can request it to be sent by mail or you can download it.

Discuss final arrangements when your family gathers for the holidays

Family discussion

You might think addressing final arrangements over the holidays is grim, but what’s really grim is not making your wishes clear by planning in advance;  when the time does come, your family not only has to deal with an emotional loss, they also have the added stress of trying to make difficult decisions about what you would have wanted. By preplanning and taking care of finances ahead of time, you can save them from additional stress and an unexpected and potentially expensive funeral bill.

Why the holidays? It’s the time most families gather: Having everyone involved present makes sure you – and all of them – are on the same page about your wishes and where to find the necessary documentation when needed. While it may seem difficult now, it will make everyone more comfortable later. Just think, once a loved one dies, there are about three days to consider, decide and plan a funeral.

“It’s a heck of a lot better to discuss thoughts about advance medical directives and funeral plans over the kitchen table or during a long walk than over an ailing patient in a hospital emergency room,” said Gail Rubin, aka The Doyenne of Death, a death educator and author.

Perhaps tell your family ahead of the holiday that when everyone is together, you would like to discuss final arrangements. While they may protest at first,  advance notice may give them more time to become comfortable with the idea.

Here are some things you may want to talk about with your spouse, partner or children:

  • Whether you want to be buried or cremated (or have a green funeral or even donate your body to science);
  • If you want a traditional funeral or a memorial service;
  • If you have a specific church or cemetery you want for the service, or a special place where you’d like a memorial service held;
  • If you choose cremation, whether you want your ashes interred or scattered (and where);
  • How you want to be remembered;
  • Who you want the family to contact about funeral or other plans;
  • Whether you want donations in lieu of flowers;
  • If there’s specific music you’d like played or a poem you’d like read;
  • Any advance plans you’ve made with a funeral home and whether you have prepaid. (Learn more about preplanning here);
  • Where to find any paperwork, including final arrangement plans, will, estate information and more. For help, see, “Important documents to prepare before you die.”

Only 17 percent of people under age 65 pre-plan for their final arrangements, according to a 2015 survey by the National Funeral Directors Association. After age 75, the percentage climbs to 34 percent. Think of planning as a gift you give to your family and consider having the conversation sooner rather than later.

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If you would like help with the preplanning process, request a free planning consultation online or call us toll-free at 1-800-PHANEUF (or at 603-625-5777).

A Radio Show, Pre-planning Seminar and a Thanks to Veterans

Lee WebsterWe’ve got a couple of great things coming up in the next week that I’m excited to tell you about.

First, our guest on this week’s installment of our radio show “Dying to Talk” will be Lee Webster, President of the National Home Funeral Alliance. We’ll talk with her about the increase in home funerals. Home funerals are legal in every state, but in 10, a funeral director needs to be involved in some capacity.  In New Hampshire, it is legal for a family or designated agent to handle everything without a funeral director.

While there are no statistics about the number of home funerals, interest is growing. Ms. Webster told USA Today that the advocacy group has nearly 600 members, up from 350 one year ago. This is sure to be a fascinating topic.

The episode airs Saturday, Nov. 21. “Dying to Talk” airs every Saturday at 8 a.m. on 107.7 The Pulse. If you miss it, the show is rebroadcast on Sunday from 6:30 to 7 a.m. Please tune in! Podcasts of our previous shows can be found at

Other upcoming shows:

  • Nov. 28 – Barbara Sedoric, author of “The Lasting Matters Organizer,” will talk about leaving written final arrangement instructions for your family.
  • Nov. 6 – Melanie Peffer, Director of the New England Organ Bank will talk about organ donations.

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Lunch n LearnLunch ‘n Learn

The second event I want you to know about is our upcoming Lunch ‘n Learn event. Increasingly, people are planning their own final arrangements in order to spare their families much of the emotional and financial burden of a funeral and burial.

At this event you’ll learn what you– or other family members – need in order to make these important decisions.

The event is set for Wednesday, Nov. 18, at the Puritan Backroom Restaurant in Manchester, 245 Hooksett Road, from 1-2:30 p.m.

Because of limited seating, and RSVP is required. Contact Michele at or call 603-625-5779 to reserve a seat.

We look forward to seeing you there!

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Thank you, veterans

Finally, yesterday we observed Veterans Day and we offer a belated thank you Thank you veteransto all of those who served in the armed forces for your patriotism and willingness to serve. To honor our veterans, we can customize any funeral or cremation in order to take full advantage of the service and recognition benefits provided by the Veterans Administration free of charge.

In addition, we offer a number of free products as our way of saying “thank you” to those who have proudly served our country. These include a military insignia on any wood or metal casket and a branch of service insignia on any urn. Research has shown that most veterans do not receive all of the benefits in which they are entitled. Our counselors are trained to handle every detail in making arrangements for veterans. Contact us for more information.

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Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium has served the public since 1906. We are the largest provider of funeral services in the state, and we operate three full-service funeral homes, two crematories, two non-denominational chapels, and a cremation society. To request a free brochure and planning guide, click here.