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.

Upcoming episodes of “Dying to Talk”

Dying to Talk staff and guest

We’re in the fifth week of our new “Dying to Talk” radio program on 107.7 The Pulse and things are going great. So far we’ve discussed cremation, and talked to John Heald, Director of Business Development for, along with funeral directors Mandy Desmarias and Madison Fortin, about how social media is changing the obituary. Then we talked with professional funeral celebrant Victoria Schneider about the rise of non-traditional funerals and the role celebrants have in creating meaningful and customized ceremonies. Last week we had a great discussion with Tikka Acharya, the executive director of the Bhutanese Community of NH, about Bhutanese funeral rites, customs, and ceremonies.

“Dying to Talk” airs every Saturday at 8:00 a.m. If you miss it, the show is rebroadcast on Sunday from 6:30 to 7 a.m. You can also listen to it via podcast – just go to Part way down the page you’ll see the “Podcasts” section. Just click and listen!

Coming up:

  • This Saturday, Oct. 10, the topic will be careers in funeral service and the educational requirements. Our guest will be Sayr Hurley, a mortuary student at FINE Mortuary College in Norwood, Mass. This should be an enlightening discussion about what drives people to be funeral directors and what’s required to become one.
  • On Oct. 17, our guest will be Kim Fallon from the state’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. She’ll tell us about the Medical Examiner’s role in investigating sudden, unexpected or unnatural deaths
  • Michael Horne, Superintendent of the NH State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen will be our guest Oct. 24. Mr. Horne will discuss the veterans cemetery, benefits, and burial options. This is one veterans should be sure not to miss.

While “Dying to Talk” is a lighter look at topics related to death, funerals, cremation and other issues people don’t normally like to talk about, our goal is also to provide the information people want and need to know. So we want to hear from you: What issues would YOU like us to include in future episodes? Just let us know in the comments, on the Phaneuf Funeral Homes and/or Cremation Society of New Hampshire Facebook pages, or give us a tweet on @PhaneufFHC  and/or @CremationNH!

New radio show, “Dying to Talk” airs Sept. 12

Buddy Phaneuf radio show, "Dying to Talk"

I’m really excited to announce that we’re going to be doing a new radio show starting Sept. 12. Called “Dying to Talk,” it will be a lighthearted look at topics related to death, funerals, cremation and other issues people don’t normally like to talk about. By airing this radio show, we hope to get people really talking about death-related topics.

Starting Sept. 12, “Dying to Talk” will air for 30 minutes every Saturday starting at 8:00 a.m. on 107.7, The Pulse. If you miss it, the show will be rebroadcast on Sunday from 6:30 to 7 a.m.

I’ll host the show, but we’ll have plenty of guests, too. We’ll talk about issues including cremation, veterans’ funerals and burial benefits, the role of medical examiners, the growth of non-traditional funerals, religious customs and traditions of Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and other religions, and more!

Our first show will focus on Cremation. If you have a question concerning cremation, send me an email at and we may be able to read it on the air and answer it.

What else would YOU like to know about? What issues would YOU like us to include in future episodes? Just let us know in the comments, on the Phaneuf Funeral Homes and/or Cremation Society of New Hampshire Facebook pages, or give us a tweet on @PhaneufFHC  and/or @CremationNH. We hope you’ll join us on Saturday mornings!

Happy listening,


Yield to funeral processions

Funeral procession

After seeing some confused motorists who aren’t clear on what to do when a line of cars headed to the cemetery passes by, it seemed time to revisit the rules of the road when it comes to funeral processions.

These rules aren’t just recommended etiquette – they’re state law. Operators of vehicles in a funeral procession have the right-of-way.

Under NH RSA 265:157, motorists:

  • Can’t drive between the vehicles in a funeral procession while in motion if the motorist isn’t in the procession. Emergency vehicles are the exception.
  • Can’t join the funeral procession in order to avoid being stopped in traffic.
  • Can’t pass a funeral procession on a 2-lane highway or roadway.
  • Can’t enter an intersection when the light is green if the procession is still passing through – even if they have a red light.

If you’re in a hurry, you might be frustrated at being slowed down by a funeral procession, but be sure yield and don’t try to cut in or honk your horn. This is a solemn event for friends and family, so it’s important  to show respect.

For their part, under NH RSA 265:156 funeral escort vehicles must

  • Comply with stop signs and traffic signals. However, when the lead vehicle goes through an intersection with a green light or after stopping at a stop sign, all the cars in in the funeral procession can continue through, even when the light turns red.
  • Be equipped with a purple flashing or emergency light.

Motorists in the funeral procession must:

  • Follow the vehicle ahead of them in the funeral procession as closely as possible as long as it’s “practical and safe.”
  • Have funeral flags or windshield signage, and headlights, taillights, and hazards on.

Despite the fact the procession has the right of way, it’s important that vehicles in the procession exercise caution because not everyone is aware of the law. Be on the lookout for cars trying to dart through an opening or who hit the gas when the light turns green.

If you go to a funeral and are in the funeral procession, the funeral attendants from the funeral home will direct you to your place in line. Once underway, expect to travel fairly slowly – 30 mph on roads in town and 55 mph or slower on the highway. When the service is over, return to your vehicle and be ready to follow in the procession.

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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.

What to do when there’s a death in the family

Mortician advising clients

The death of a family member is a traumatic event and one most people don’t ever want to think about. But what if a family member dies suddenly: Would you know what to do? Having some idea of what to expect will aid you in making arrangements during a very stressful time. Here are a few things you should know:


When death occurs

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.

A family member should call the funeral home as soon a possible. Staff at the funeral home understand 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.

We will ask about the type of service you would like to honor your loved one and celebrate his or her life. However, if you don’t know what type of service you want, you don’t have to make that decision right away. We will set up a later appointment for you to sit down with a staff member and decide upon final arrangements. Think about your loved one and what they would want as well as how you can best honor them.



Transport of the deceased to the funeral home should be arranged after a physician has signed a pronouncement of death, which is required under New Hampshire law. If the State Medical Examiner is to perform an autopsy, transport will be arranged to take place at the completion of the exam, once the medical examiner legally releases the body.

From the nursing home

When a death occurs in a hospital or nursing home, you only have to call us. The medical staff at the health care facility will make sure that all legal requirements are met. While some health care facilities call the funeral home on behalf of the family, most don’t, so it’s best for you to call us directly.

From home

If the deceased had a terminal illness and died at home while under hospice care, the hospice nurse or physician will release the deceased to the funeral home. In this case it’s helpful to think about final arrangements in advance. We can meet with the family prior to the death to begin the process of making arrangements. This cuts down on the number of decisions you will have to make at the time of death and help prevent events from becoming too overwhelming. You can call us or you can start the process by filling out our on-line form.

From out of state

If the death takes place outside of New Hampshire, call us toll free at 1-800-PHANEUF (1-800-742-6383), and we can make all the necessary arrangements without adding the expense of an outside funeral home. We also offer Worldwide Travel Protection that will guarantee the price of your final arrangements no matter where the death occurs.



There are three kinds of written memorials. You may decide on one, two or all three. The first is the death notice, which is a short piece with basic details about the deceased: Who, when and where. This is information for others, about where and when the funeral or memorial service will be held, if there is one. It’s a general notice of death that may be placed in a local paper to serve as a kind of historical record.

The second is the obituary. The obituary has the information from the death notice, but it goes a step further by summarizing the person’s life. When writing an obituary, it’s important to think about what made your loved one special. Think about organizations he or she belonged to, hobbies, work history and awards. Be sure to have accurate information about early life, family and the names and hometowns of family members.

Finally, there is the tribute, which is something you might find online in a remembrance or tribute section. This is the place to recount a funny anecdote or fond memory about the deceased. It’s something that will be read by other people, so write something appropriate and something that will be treasured by the whole family. Our online obituaries offer a place to offer these tributes and memories.



The deceased’s employer, bank, insurance company and attorney should be notified. Important documents should be gathered (for more information on this, see “Important documents to prepare before you die). Digital assets – such as social media accounts – should be deactivated (see “What happens to your digital assets when you die?). Any insurance claims should be filed and the will executed.


After the funeral

Send out thank-you notes to those who offered condolences or helped out in your time of need. Most importantly, remember that the funeral or memorial service isn’t really the end. Continue to celebrate your loved one and remember what made him or her special for many, many years to come.

Common funeral and cremation terms

Funeral flowers and candle

Not everyone has been to a funeral or has experience with cremation, so when it comes time to make final arrangements for either yourself or a loved one, you may be unfamiliar with some of the terms being used. To help make the process easier, here are 35 common terms that you may come across when making final arrangements:

Apportionment – When cremated remains are divided up between friends and loved ones and, perhaps, for spreading in a specific location.

Arrangement conference – The meeting between the family and a funeral director to discuss final arrangements. The conference is usually held in an arrangement room, but can also be held at the hospital or at home.

At need – Arrangements made at the time of death (as opposed to preplanned arrangements).

Burial certificate or permit – A legal document issued by city and town clerks, authorizing burial, cremation or entombment.

Casket – Also called a coffin, a container made of wood, metal or plastic that holds the deceased’s body. Under federal law, funeral homes are required to accept caskets that consumers have purchased from another source or that you have built yourself.

Certified death certificate – Usually prepared by the funeral home; a legal document filed with the state to verify an individual’s death. A valid death certificate is needed for a family to make insurance claims and collect other death benefits.

Columbarium – A structure that’s similar to a mausoleum, but holds cremains rather than bodies.

Committal Service – Also known as a graveside service; the final part of the funeral service when the deceased is buried in the ground or entombed in a mausoleum.

Cosmetology – The use of cosmetics to give the deceased a more lifelike appearance, especially when there will be a visitation.

Cremains – The cremated remains of the deceased

Crypt – A vault or chamber in a mausoleum that holds the deceased’s remains.

Embalming – A method of preserving and sanitizing the deceased. This is done by injecting an antiseptic preservative through the circulatory system.

Eulogy – A speech of praise given to honor the deceased.

Family Car – The vehicle, often a limousine, dedicated to carrying the family to the service and burial.

Family room – A separate room in the funeral home for the family of the deceased to have some privacy.

Full couch – A casket that is completely open, showing the deceased from head to toe; a half couch is a casket that only opens halfway, showing the deceased from head to waist.

Funeral service – The ceremony, religious or otherwise, that marks the death of an individual.

Grave liner – A container placed in the ground to keep the walls of the grave from caving in. The casket is lowered into the liner at burial. A vault is similar, but more substantial. A grave liner only covers the top and sides of a casket, while a vault surrounds the casket.

Inter – To bury the body of the deceased.

Inurment – To place cremains into an urn.

Mausoleum – An aboveground structure used for placement of casketed remains.

Memorial service – A ceremony held to honor the memory of the deceased; often held without remains.

Next-of-kin – A person who is the nearest relative of the deceased and who is responsible for making decisions about final arrangements.

Pallbearers – A group of individuals who carry the casket. Pallbearers are often friends and relatives of the deceased.

Preplanning – When an individual makes his or her own final arrangements ahead of time. Preplanning doesn’t necessarily require prepayment.

Private service – A service that is by invitation only.

Procession – Also known as a cortege; a line of vehicles that travels between the funeral home or church and the cemetery.

Register – A book in which mourners can record their names at the funeral home when they pay their respects to the deceased.

Reposing room – Where the deceased’s body lies in the casket until the funeral service.

Viewing – Also known as a viewing;  a period of time during which the deceased’s body is displayed at the funeral home, so friends and family can visit and pay respects.

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If you would like more information about funeral or cremation arrangements, we’ll be happy to send you our free brochure and planning guide.

The Effects of Baby Boomers on the Funeral Industry

The baby boomers – known as the generation that redefined traditional values and were a major catalyst in changes to lifestyle and social norms – are continuing to live up to their reputation, even as they begin to face end-of-life realities.

With just under 25 percent of the U.S. population over age 55 in 2011 (according to the Census Bureau), it has become apparent that funeral service providers need to pay attention to the unique demands of these consumers, who like to plan ahead and want to customize every detail of their final arrangements.

We see a great deal of this in the services we provide at our firms.  We have hosted funerals where food / passed hors d’oeuvres are provided during the services, jazz and rock bands have played, Harley Davidson’s are used in the funeral procession, with the urn strapped to it, and where classic and muscle cars were used in the funeral procession.   Of course customized caskets, urns and keepsakes are also a growing trend.  We are continuously kept on our toes with new and unique requests and our funeral directors are tasked with thinking outside the box, to meet the growing demand for these value-added services.

CNBC recently published a very interesting article on this topic, which I invite you to read:

Phaneuf Funeral Homes Professional Training Programs

One little knownaspect of what we do at Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium is conduct training programs and workshops for caregivers and those in the healthcare field.  At first blush, there may seem to be a disconnect in a funeral home providing this sort of training.  However, we have found that nearly all caregivers have not had sufficient training and lack the knowledge as to what happens after someone in their care passes away. 

 Recently, we provided a two hour workshop to over 60 nursing students on the funeral arrangment process.  Most of these young (and not so young) students had no idea what the process was about.  Yet, many newly licensed nurses will have their first job experience in nursing home and assisted living facilities.  Clearly, this sort of training can only assist them in providing valuable information to their client families.  Earlier this month, we conducted an evening workshop for hospice volunteers on funeral and cremation options.  Again, these volunteers are on the front lines,  speaking with families.  Arming them with knowledge only helps them manage the process.  Another group we recently provided training to was a local nursing home.  Most of the workshop focused on the process of filing death certificates and legal issues around autopsies and the role of the medical examiners office.  These are topics of importance to these professionals yet not something taught in nursing school or any other caregiver program.

We provide our training programs both on-site and off  site and offer it free of charge.  If you work for a nursing home, hospice program, hospital or other caregiver organization in New Hampshire and would like more information about one of free programs, please give me a call at 625-5778 or email me at