Over the years, we have written many funeral articles in the hopes of educating our community about the nuisances of the funeral business. For the beginning of our new year, I would like to give an overview of the funeral home and how it has evolved to suit our modern lifestyles.

When people think of a funeral home, they may envision a stoic man, sitting at a desk in a conservative office, offering advice about choosing a casket, embalming, church services and cemeteries. While that may have been the case in the past, many funeral homes are now taking the approach of being event planners, helping you to truly celebrate the life of your loved one.

A traditional funeral consisting of a wake, church service and burial is still often desired, but it is the job of the funeral directors to help your family personalize whatever type of service you choose to reflect the life of the person who has died. You should not feel obligated to do the service in church if the deceased was not particularly religious. Consider having the service in the funeral home where you can truly personalize the service.

In the funeral home, there is no restriction on décor, flowers, music or how many family members and friends can speak during the service. By using family photos, we can create a memorial tribute video that can play during the wake or service and would be yours to keep.

The funeral director may also assist you in coordinating a service at another venue such as the country club, beach, or the backyard of your home. The important component is the celebration of the life a loved one.

While difficult to do, it is essential to acknowledge the death and allow for a time where friends and family can safely grieve.

The funeral business has changed in other ways as well.

For instance, the owner of the home typically no longer lives in the funeral home. The thought that funeral directors are always at the home no longer applies.

If you need to speak with a director, you should call first to make an appointment. It allows the funeral director a chance to prepare for the conference so that he or she can help you to the best of their ability.

We have had people stop by who are coping with a loved one dying while a funeral is going on and have unfortunately had to tell them we are assisting another family at the moment.

With an initial call, we could have addressed their immediate needs and scheduled an appointment to go over all of the details.

Also, many funeral homes have an answering service to handle incoming calls when they are not physically in the office.

The director however, can always be reached. Now that everyone has a cell phone, the answering service simply contacts the director on call when attention to the business is needed. It usually takes less than 10 minutes for the director to return you call and assess your needs.

Another changing aspect of the funeral business is the process of taking care of the funeral bill.

In years past, it was common that a funeral home would simply send a bill to the family at the conclusion of the service and wait 30 to 60 days to be paid. This is no longer the case.

Most funeral homes require that at least half, if not all of the bill be taken care of prior to services being rendered. Since funeral homes do not deal in financing, it is not feasible to just end on a handshake and assume the check will arrive.

Be sure to ask the funeral home up front what their payment policy is.

If you are considering using a life insurance policy to pay the funeral bill, be sure to check the policy in advance to be certain it is in force and the proper beneficiaries have been named.

We had an instance not too long ago where the family was always told there was a life insurance policy that would cover the entire funeral and provide for other end of life expenses.

When the family brought in the policy and we called to verify, it came to light that the gentleman had taken out a large loan on the policy to pay for some living expenses. Please consider this example and plan for the future.

Do your family a favor and verify that everything is in order and your final wishes have been recorded, then go on enjoying life.