What purpose does a funeral serve?

Funerals have been with us since the beginning of human history. They help us move from life before a death has occured to life after. Funerals help us begin to heal. Meaningful funeral ceremonies are rites of passage. Planning a funeral that will be meaningful to your family is one of the most important tasks you will ever undertake. 

It is important to remember that funerals are for the living…A funeral commemorates a life well lived and offers family and friends the opportunity to pay tribute to someone they loved.

What do funeral directors do?

Funeral directors are licensed and specially trained professionals. They make the arrangements for transportation of loved ones into their care, obtain all the required legal documents and transportation permits, complete all necessary paperwork, guide families through the planning process and implement the choices they have made regarding the funeral and final disposition. Funeral directors are listeners, advisors and supporters. They have experience assisting the bereaved in coping with death, and are trained to answer questions about grief, recognize when a person is having difficulty coping, and recommend sources of professional help. 

Do you have to have a funeral director to bury the dead?

Each state has different regulations. You can call your local department of health to find out exactly what your state requires. However, most people find it very trying to be solely responsible for arranging all the details and legal matters surrounding a death.

Why have a visitation or viewing?

A visitation is a gathering of friends and family to share memories and provide support to family members. A viewing during the visitation often helps to acknowledge the reality of death and provides an opportunity for loved ones to say farewell. Viewing is encouraged for children, as long as the process is explained and the activity voluntary.

What is the purpose of embalming?

Embalming sanitizes and preserves the body, retards the decomposition process, and enhances the appearance of a body disfigured by traumatic death or illness. Embalming makes it possible to lengthen the time between death and the final disposition, thus allowing family members time to arrange and participate in the type of service most comforting to them.

Does a dead body have to be embalmed, according to law?

No. Most states, however, require embalming when death was caused by a reportable contagious disease or when remains are to be transported from one state to another by common carrier or if final disposition is not to be made within a prescribed number of hours. While it is true some metropolitan areas have limited available cemetery space, in most areas of the country, there is enough space set aside for the next 50 years without creating new cemeteries. In addition, land available for new cemeteries is more than adequate, especially with the increase in entombment and multi-level grave burial.

Is cremation a substitute for a funeral?

No, cremation is an alternative to earth burial or entombment for the body's final disposition. A cremation can follow a traditional funeral service or be performed prior to having a memorial service.

Is it possible to have a traditional funeral if someone dies of AIDS?

Yes, A person who dies of an AIDS-related illness is entitled to the same service options afforded to anyone else. If public viewing is consistent with local or personal customs, that option is encouraged. Touching the deceased's face or hands is perfectly safe. Because the grief experienced by survivors may include a variety of feelings, survivors may need even more support than survivors of non-AIDS-related deaths.

How much does a funeral cost?

A funeral, like any other service, can have a wide range of prices depending on what a family wants. It is similar to asking, "How much does a wedding cost?" Funeral costs are divided into three categories: services, as provided by the funeral director and funeral home staff; merchandise, such as caskets, vault, urn, urn vault, memorial products, keepsakes, etc.; and cash advance items, those charges that are funeral related but not provided by the funeral home, charges such as clergy honorarium, newspaper notices, flowers, motorcycle escort, etc. It is a Federal Trade Commission regulation that all funeral-related charges be itemized, printed on a General Price List (GPL) and made available to the public by phone, mail or in person. 

The services, merchandise and cash advance items selected will determine the total cost of the funeral. Therefore, it can be very difficult to get an accurate estimate over the phone. When choosing a funeral home, it is recommended that you visit the facility, meet the staff you will be working with and get a written estimate for the total cost of the funeral.

Why are funerals so expensive?

When compared to other major life cycle events, like births and weddings, funerals are not expensive. A wedding costs at least three times as much; but because it is a happy event, wedding costs are rarely criticized. A funeral home is a 24-hour, labor-intensive business. While wedding planning may take a year, a funeral is usually planned and executed in less than one week. These factors must be considered when looking at the cost of a funeral. Moreover, the cost of a funeral includes not only merchandise, like caskets, but the services of a funeral director in making arrangements; filing appropriate forms; dealing with doctors, ministers, florists, newspapers and others; and seeing to all the necessary details.

What recourse does a consumer have for poor service or overcharging?

Funeral service is regulated by the FTC and state licensing boards. In most cases, the consumer should discuss problems with the funeral director first. If the dispute cannot be solved by talking with the funeral director, the consumer may wish to contact the Funeral Service Consumer Assistance Program. FSCAP provides information, mediates disputes, provides arbitration, and maintains a consumer guarantee fund for reimbursement of services rendered. (To contact FSCAP, call 708-827-6337 or 800-662-7666).

Who pays for funerals for the indigent?
Other than the family, there are veteran, union, and other organizational benefits to pay for funerals, including, in certain instances, a lump sum death payment from Social Security. In most states, some form of public aid allowances are available from either the state, county, or city or a combination. Most funeral directors are aware of the various benefits and know how to obtain them for the indigent. However, funeral directors often absorb costs above and beyond what is provided by agencies to insure the deceased a respectable burial.

What should I do if the death occurs in the middle of the night or on the weekend?
Most Funeral Directors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Will someone come right away?
If you request immediate assistance, yes. If the family wishes to spend a short time with the deceased to say good bye, it's acceptable. They will come when your time is right.

If a loved one dies out of state , can the local Funeral Home still help?
Yes, they can assist you with out-of-state arrangements, either to transfer the remains to another state or from another state.


What should I do when a death occurs in my family?
Contact the funeral home as soon as a death has occurred. A time will be set up with the funeral director to come in and make arrangements. The funeral home will help coordinate arrangements with the cemetery, church and clergy.

What should I do if a death occurs while I am away traveling?
Contact us immediately, and let us coordinate with a funeral home in the area where the death has occurred. We will take charge from then on and make all the arrangements for transporting the deceased to a local funeral home for embalming and preparation for return to home. You only need contact us with some basic information and call us when you return home to set a time for an arrangement conference.

What if a death occurs while traveling outside the U.S.?
If a family member dies while traveling outside the United States, the U.S. Embassy will come to your assistance. You should call us immediately when a death occurs abroad. We are well versed in the procedures for returning the deceased to the United States.


Who is eligible for monthly Social Security Benefits?
A widow or widower age 60 or older (50 if disabled), or at any age if caring for an entitled child who is under 16 or disabled; a divorced widow or widower age 60 or older (50 if disabled) if the marriage lasted 10 years, or if caring for an entitled child who is under 16 or disabled; unmarried children up to age 18 (19 if they are attending a primary or secondary school full lime); children who were disabled before reaching 22, as long as they remained disabled; dependent parent or parents 62 or older.

How may I find out more information and apply for benefits?
You must apply in order to receive benefits. You may apply at any Social Security office or, if you wish, you may apply by telephone. Just dial the toll-free number 1-800-772-1213 and the operator will schedule an appointment for you or arrange for the local Social Security office to take your claim by telephone. You may also visit http://www.ssa.gov for more information.


Who is eligible for veterans benefits?
An eligible veteran must have been discharged or separated from active duty under conditions other than dishonorable and have completed the required period of service. Persons entitled to retired pay as a result of 20 years creditable service with a reserve component are eligible. A U.S. citizen who served in the armed forces of a government allied with the United States in a war also may be eligible. A 1997 law bars persons convicted of federal or state capital crimes from being buried or memorialized in one of the VA national cemeteries or in Arlington National Cemetery.

Spouses and minor children of eligible veterans and of service members also may be buried in a national cemetery. Adult children incapable of self-support due to physical or mental disability are eligible for burial. If a surviving spouse of an eligible veteran marries a nonveteran, and remarriage was terminated by divorce or death of the nonveteran, the spouse is eligible for burial in a national cemetery.

What do the veterans benefits include?
Burial benefits in a VA national cemetery include the gravesite, a headstone or marker, opening and closing of the grave, and perpetual care. Many national cemeteries have columbaria or gravesites for cremated remains. Benefits also include headstones and markers, Presidential memorial certificates, burial flags and Reimbursement of Burial Expenses, depending on the circumstances. Contact should be made to the Veterans Affairs Office to determine what benefits can be claimed and then gather the information required. The National Toll-free Number for the Veterans Affairs Office is (800) 827-1000.



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