What do funeral directors do?
Primarily they care and safeguard the deceased person until final disposition, including embalming and restorative work. A growing number of funeral directors are trained as grief counselors to help families through the bereavement process. They also arrange and provide an orderly series of events that finalize the funeral, the final disposition and legal paperwork so the family can proceed forward. They also provide the physical establishment in which all of this can be accomplished.
What purpose does a funeral serve?
The funeral and the ceremony that accompanies it are indeed very important. For those who are left behind, a funeral provides a place for family and friends to gather for support and to reminisce; an opportunity to celebrate the life and accomplishments of a loved one; a chance to say goodbye; and the focal point from which the healing process can begin. The funeral identifies that a person's life has been lived, not that a death has occurred. It is also important to notify the community that this person has died. There are people beyond the immediate family who have the right to grieve a death.
Are the services of a funeral director necessary to bury the dead?
In most states, no. But each state does have different regulations. You should call the local department of health to find out exactly what your state requires.
Is a funeral or memorial service always held in a funeral home or place of worship?
A service can usually be held at any location that family and friends feel would be comfortable and appropriate. Your funeral director can assist with arranging a meaningful service.
Can a function less formal than a funeral or memorial service be arranged?
A Gathering of Friends is a less formal event. It allows family and friends to share their loss and treasured memories of the deceased. A Gathering of Friends may include light refreshments and can be held at any appropriate location, including an accommodating funeral home, a park, a restaurant, or the home of a family member or friend.
Does the price I receive from the funeral home include everything?
The Funeral Director is responsible for explaining all the charges that specifically pertain to the funeral home's services and merchandise sold stated on its general price list. Any additional charges may fall under the category of cash advances. These additional charges might be for opening and closing the grave, clergy honorarium, newspaper notices, flowers, organist, church sexton, etc.
Why are funerals so expensive?
There is a great range in prices for services and merchandise from your local funeral directors, depending on the type of funeral you purchase and each company's price structure. The perception that funerals are too expensive usually can be attributed to a lack of familiarity with the normal price range. If you find that the price for certain services and merchandise seems too high, you should check into different types of funerals and different companies until you find the price that fits your budget. Obviously, it is difficult to comparison shop in an at-death situation. Therefore, it is important to speak with your local funeral director ahead of time. By preplanning, you can find a provider whose services and merchandise fit your budget.
Will life insurance pay for funerals?
Yes, as a convenient method of payment, most funeral homes will allow for an insurance assignment. This assignment transaction is processed by the funeral home, releasing only the funeral expenses to the funeral service provider, and with any remaining balance going directly to the beneficiary. The insurance assignment is an effective, convenient means in which to cover funeral expenses. Keep in mind that it's very important to speak with your local funeral provider, to ensure that your insurance policy is applied to the type of funeral service you want. Simply having life insurance will not make the important decisions that must be made in regard to you funeral -- which funeral home will take care of the service, what types of service will be held, how much will be spent on the funeral service, etc.
Is it appropriate to have a viewing and not a service?
Yes, if that is the wish of the family, the funeral director will arrange designated times for calling hours, have the times published in the newspaper and simply add to the obituary that services will be private or at the convenience of the family. This information will make it clear to the public as to arrangements, and fulfill the wishes of the family.
How can I personalize a funeral service?
One way is to bring personal items into the funeral home to be displayed in or near the casket. Example: an avid golfer might have a favorite putter placed in the casket. An avid hunter or fisherman might have some of their personal effects or trophies displayed on a memory table. A person who quilted could have the casket draped with a quilt they made. An artist could have their work displayed. A persons favorite rocking chair could be brought to the funeral home and placed next to the casket.
Do clergy always officiate at a funeral service?
In conjunction with, or sometimes in place of a clergy person, family or friends may share personal thoughts, memories and feelings about the deceased as part of the service.
May I make the necessary arrangements in advance?
Yes, usually all arrangements may be made in advance. When you plan ahead, you will be able to consider the many options available. You will have the opportunity to make an informed decision about your funeral and cemetery arrangements, and the form of memorial you prefer. You will be able to make choices that are meaningful to both you and your family, and you will gain peace of mind knowing your family and friends will be relieved of the emotional and financial burden often associated with making arrangements when a death occurs. By prearranging your funeral and cemetery arrangements, you benefit by purchasing at today's prices, free from inflationary pressures in the future.
How much does a funeral cost?
A funeral, like any other service, can have a range of prices depending on the provider. It is similar to asking "How much does a wedding cost?" Funeral costs are divided into two categories: services, as provided by the funeral director and funeral home staff; and merchandise, such as caskets, outer burial containers, urns, etc. The average regular adult funeral in the U.S. in 1996 cost $4,287, according to the Federated Funeral Directors of America. Today, our average adult traditional funeral with casket, outer burial container and cash advance items averages $7,800.00. This price generally includes funeral home staff services, professional care, use of the funeral home and equipment, automotive equipment, visitors register, acknowledgment cards, and casket. However, the price will vary greatly depending on your location, the company that is serving you and the type of funeral you choose. It is a Federal Trade Commission regulation that all funeral-related charges be itemized, printed on a general price list and made available to the public by phone, mail or in person. Therefore it is easy to comparison shop and pre-arrange your own funeral, taking advantage of competitive pricing by providers.
What if I do not wish to use all the services a funeral home has to offer?
The Federal Trade Commission Funeral Rule requires that all funeral homes itemize their charges for professional services, facilities and motor equipment and that they provide a General Price List to all clients. You have the right to select and pay for only those services you choose to utilize.
How can I best shop and compare funeral service providers?
Talking with friends who have used the services of a funeral home or your personal experience from attending funeral services of friends or relatives at a variety of funeral homes are excellent methods of comparison. You might also consider just stopping by a funeral home unannounced to experience how you are treated. To a lesser degree, you can also gain some experience from randomly contacting various firms by telephone. You can call your local Better Business Bureau to see if complaints have been filed against a local funeral director, and whether they were satisfactorily resolved. Also, you can call one of the national funeral trade associations, which have standards of ethics, to see whether your local funeral homes are members.
How can I get an idea about the costs of caskets?
All funeral homes are required by the Federal Trade Commission to have casket price lists available to the public at all times. Your funeral home will gladly discuss prices on the phone, send you a copy of the price list or arrange an appointment to see available caskets.
Why are some casket prices more than others?
It depends upon the materials with which the casket is made. Obviously, a casket made of bronze would be priced higher than one made of steel. A casket made of solid mahogany would be more costly to manufacture than one of soft pine wood. A casket with crepe interior materials would be priced less than an interior of velvet because of the cost of the material. It depends upon what materials the casket shell is made of, the interior materials and any protective features included in that particular model.
What about these independent discount casket companies? Can't I buy my casket there and use it when needed?
Yes, It is certainly a financially sound decision to purchase anything at today's prices which can then be used at a later time; however, you need to consider several things. Who will store the casket, you or the company you purchased it from? If you buy it without delivery, you need to know how your purchase will be protected.
Can I build by own casket?
As a matter of fact, you can, although as a matter or practicality, it may present some storage challenges for you. You might consult a funeral home for correct measurements as the casket will ultimately need to be placed into a burial vault, graveliner or mausoleum crypt.
What are burial vaults and graveliners?
These are the outside containers into which the casket is placed. Burial vaults are made of a variety or combination of materials including concrete, stainless steel, galvanized steel, cooper, bronze, plastic or fiberglass. A graveliner is a lightweight version of a vault which simply keeps the grave surface from sinking in.
Will the funeral home help with Social Security and Veterans death benefits?
Quality service firms will not only assist with securing these death benefits, they will most likely complete all the paperwork for you.
Should a child attend a funeral?
Children grieve just as adults do. Any child old enough to form a relationship will experience some form of grief when a relationship is severed. As adults we may not view a child’s behavior as grief as it often is demonstrated in ways which we misunderstand as "moody", "cranky", "withdrawn" or other behavioral patterns which do not appear to us to be grief. When a death occurs children need to be surrounded by feelings of warmth, acceptance and understanding. This may be a tall order to expect of the adults who are experiencing their own grief and upset. Caring adults can guide children through this time when the child is experiencing feelings for which they have no words and thus cannot identify. In a very real way, this time can be a growth experience for the child, teaching about love and relationships. The first task is to create an atmosphere in which the child's thoughts, fears and wishes are recognized. This means that they should be allowed to participate in any of the arrangements, ceremonies and gatherings which are comfortable for them. First, explain what will be happening and why it is happening at a level the child can understand. A child may not be able to speak at a grandparent's funeral but would benefit greatly from the opportunity to draw a picture to be placed in the casket or displayed at the service. Be aware that children will probably have short attention spans and may need to leave a service or gathering before the adults are ready. Many families provide a non-family attendant to care for the children in this event. The key is to allow the participation, not to force it. Forced participation can be harmful. Children instinctively have a good sense of how involved they wish to be. They should be listened to carefully.
Does Veterans Administration pay for veteran's funerals?
Although the Veterans Administration does not pay for complete funerals, it does provide certain merchandise, services and reimbursements. Your local VA office can provide you with a variety of benefits available. In general, any veteran with a discharge other than dishonorable is entitled to be buried in an accepting national cemetery. He or she may also receive a free grave space, with a bronze, granite, or marble memorial marked with veteran's rank, war served and religious icon. Other specific circumstances, better explained by your VA benefits counselor, may have additional burial-related benefits.
Why would I need to purchase Certified Copies of a death certificate?
Certified copies are used as proof of death for the transfer of stocks and bonds, banking transactions and life insurance. Your funeral provider can help you determine how many you may need to settle an estate and also secure them for you.
If I donate my remains to medical science, can there still be a service?
In addition to coordinating the donation, your funeral home can arrange for either a Memorial Service or a Gathering of Friends to be held at a time and place convenient for the family.
What recourse does a consumer have for poor service or overcharging?
The complaint should first be given to the funeral director that served the family. If the situation is not resolved to your satisfaction, then a complaint should be filed with your state's board of funeral service, or with a consumer complaint department of the state attorney general's office. In most instances, the complaint will be resolved by the funeral director.