Frequent Questions

Click on the questions below to reveal each respective answer.

Selecting a funeral home is an important decision. The ownership of the funeral home, professionalism and experience of its funeral directors and staff, range of available service options, reputation in the community, value of its products and services, are all key factors in the decision process. If you are unfamiliar with the funeral homes in your area, consult a friend, relative, your doctor or clergyperson, or a hospice group. Pre-arranging your funeral allows you to meet with several funeral homes to discuss your plans and desires. You’ll also learn about the range of services they are able to offer, as well as the costs involved before making a final decision. Keep in mind the funeral director should be able to help you create a ceremony that celebrates a life while recognizing a passing. This is an important part of the healing process. A conscientious funeral director is available day or night, including holidays. Select a funeral home you feel comfortable with and who will offer guidance during one of life’s most difficult times.

From the hour of death until the final disposition of the body, the funeral director is constantly available to help families through a difficult time. He or she serves as an advisor, supporter and administrator. One of the first responsibilities of the funeral director is to bring the deceased person’s body to the funeral home, and to gather information for the death certificate which will be filed with the proper legal authorities. The director meets with the family to make the arrangements for visitation and the funeral service. He or she also provides convenient access to a choice of burial caskets or urns, appropriate markers and alternatives for final disposition. It’s the job of the funeral director to file the desired newspaper notices for the family. In addition, the staff at the funeral home will help the survivors file claim forms for Social Security, Veteran’s, union and/or insurance benefits. On the day of the funeral, the director attends to the logistical matters of transportation and oversees the ceremonial procedures. Grieving families may need help coping with a sudden death, and the funeral director can recommend sources for professional counseling.

When a death occurs in the home or at work, you should immediately dial 911. Fire personnel and paramedics will be dispatched and in most cities, a police officer or detective are sent to the location. Any death occurring without a physician or medical personnel in attendance must be reported to the police. It is a good idea to call family, friends or your clergy to sit with you while the medical staff and police ask you questions. If the deceased was recently treated for an illness or disease, you’ll want to contact his or her physician. For those actively involved in a hospice or a home health care program, the family members are given instructions and procedures to follow when death occurs. Instead of dialing 911, they will call a hospice or home health care staff member who will confirm that a death has occurred and will then call a mortuary and the physician on the families’ behalf.

It is important to remember that the funeral service is not provided for the deceased – but rather to support and comfort the living. In fact, most psychologists agree that a funeral service is the best way of bringing closure to a life that has been lived. It not only helps family and friends move ahead with their lives following a loss, but it also serves as an opportunity to celebrate the life of a loved one. The service allows family and friends to find strength and comfort by gathering together and sharing memories and special times with one another. Gathering at the service allows everyone to be included in the grieving process and most importantly, allows the immediate family to begin the healing process. While most families choose to hold some form of service, others do not. Oftentimes, people later regret this decision because it ignores the need for closure and leaves the need to grieve unfulfilled. It is a good idea to discuss the importance of the service with family and friends before the actual need arises.

No two funeral services are the same and they shouldn’t be. The funeral director can help you personalize the ceremony regardless of the type of funeral selected. Many people find comfort in the actual funeral services because it provides a place to express feelings and emotions of grief. Services can be wide ranging from contemporary to traditional and from religious to secular. Music, scripture, poetry, shared memories and stories can be added to make the service unique and memorable. Oftentimes, families choose to set up a table with personal items and pictures that help acknowledge the accomplishments, interests and personality of the individual. All of these ideas can add meaning to the service or ceremony and help everyone to share in this special time of remembrance.

The emotional impact of death makes it difficult for the survivors to concentrate on the duties and responsibilities that lie ahead. You’ll find that the assistance of a funeral director will be extremely valuable as you plan the activities associated with death. Be sure to include your clergy person in the planning. If the deceased didn’t belong to a church, but a religious ceremony is desired, the funeral director can suggest a member of the clergy to officiate. Experts estimate that a funeral director coordinates more than two hundred activities in the two or three days of preparation for a funeral service. He or she will meet with the family to discuss arrangement options. The place, type and time of the visitation, service and burial must be decided upon immediately. A casket, outer burial container, urn, monument or marker must be selected. Casket bearers must be chosen and flowers ordered. The death certificate, newspaper notices and benefit claims must be completed and filed. Some funeral homes offer follow-up services to further assist families after the funeral has taken place.

Embalming is the preparation of a body for disposition. The main reason for embalming is the protection of the public health. Human remains begin to decompose almost immediately, and the body becomes an ideal environment for microbial growth. Untreated remains pose a public health concern. Embalming also slows the decomposition and preserves the body. An embalmed body will retain a somewhat lifelike appearance for a period of time. This practice allows friends and family to travel from great distances to attend the funeral service. It also permits the body to be buried at a place other than the place of death. Embalming restores the body to an acceptable appearance for viewing after a tragic accident or prolonged illness. While embalming is not required by law, it is necessary if there is a public viewing, the body is to be transported between states, or if the final disposition is delayed. Embalming is performed by a licensed embalmer. Unless the person who died had an infectious or contagious disease, final disposition must occur within 24 hours of death, although this time frame can be extended if the remains are refrigerated or placed in a sealed container (as is specified by law).

Caskets come in a wide choice of quality, style, workmanship and colors. You’ll find that there are caskets available to fit any budget. They can range from plywood covered with fabric to fine woods such as mahogany and from simple steel to more expensive caskets made of copper or bronze. Many caskets can be personalized with special emblems and/or embroidered panels that may have a meaningful design or saying. Personalization can share something special about the life being honored.

Viewing helps bring about closure and serves as an important part of the healing process. This can be important for several reasons. Viewing the body of the deceased helps those who survive more aware of the reality of death. That’s often the reason why so much time and effort is spent on the recovery of a missing body. Seeing is believing and it often marks the beginning of the grieving process. Proper preparation and restoration will often remove the effects of a long illness or a sudden violent death, allowing family and friends to recall an acceptable image of the deceased. Viewing the deceased is especially helpful to children who have never experienced the death of a loved one. The funeral director will arrange for specific visitation hours or they can be made by appointment.

The committal service generally follows a funeral in a church or at the mortuary chapel; however, some families choose to hold only a graveside committal service. Instead of gathering at the church or mortuary, family and friends simply meet at the cemetery. Families may choose a graveside service if there are not many relatives or friends or because it can be more simplified. Military services are generally held at the gravesite and include a gun salute, the playing of taps and folding the flag which drapes the casket.

Direct disposition is sometimes called immediate burial. The body is generally buried within 24-hours after death takes place; so consequently embalming is not required. Since there is no formal viewing of the body, cosmetic restoration is also not necessary. Even with immediate burial, there can still be a memorial ceremony or a graveside service. Direct disposition is often chosen because of certain religious customs or requirements.

Cremation is one form of preparing the body for final disposition. The process generally takes three to four hours for the body to be transformed by intense heat into small bone fragments. Following the process, the cremated remains are generally held It is strongly suggested that you discuss your personal preferences with the other members of your family in order to eliminate any unresolved questions. There may be some resistance to cremation from family members. Therefore, it is helpful to address such concerns ahead of time. By doing so, you will help put feelings of uneasiness to rest and have the peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out.

Cremation offers the choice of a funeral or a memorial service. A funeral service, in which the body is present in a casket, takes place before the cremation process. A memorial service generally takes place after the process. The final disposition of the cremated remains normally takes place after the funeral or memorial service. In determining which type of service to choose, you may need to consider if viewing and/or visitation is important to your family. Many families choose to have visitation, because, like the service or ceremony, it too brings about closure and serves as an important part of the healing process. Services can be wide ranging from contemporary to traditional and from religious to secular. Music, scripture, poetry, shared memories and stories can be added to make the service unique and memorable. Oftentimes, families choose to set up a table with personal items and pictures that help acknowledge the accomplishments, interests and personality of the individual. All of these ideas can add meaning to the service or ceremony and help everyone to share in this special time of remembrance.

There are many options for final disposition when cremation is selected. Most families find comfort in knowing that their loved one is in a permanent resting place. The specific location gives family and friends, as well as future generations, a place to go for reflection and remembrance. The cremated remains can be placed in an urn and kept in a niche at a columbarium. The cremated remains can also be place in a container and buried in a space at a cemetery. Another option is to keep the cremated remains of your loved one with you for final disposition at a later time. Some couples stipulate in their will that their cremated remains are to be buried together. Some cemeteries may have a garden area set aside for scattering cremated remains. A small plaque is then put in place to memorialize the deceased. Other families choose to have their loved one’s remains scattered over water or in the mountains. The funeral director will help you with local regulations on disposing of cremated remains on public land. It is recommended that you ask permission from land owners before scattering cremated remains on property that you do not own.

Selecting a cemetery is a decision that sometimes must be made within hours or days of a death. You can ask for recommendations and suggestions from the funeral director. In addition to the cost of the space or plot, you’ll be charged a fee for the opening and closing of the grave. Almost all cemeteries require you to purchase an outer burial container. This not only helps protect the casket, but more importantly it helps to maintain the appearance of the cemetery when heavy equipment is driven over graves. It is strongly recommended that before you purchase property, you should visit several cemeteries. Notice how the property is kept up. The ownership of the cemetery will also tell you a great deal about how it is managed and operated. You may find an area that has special meaning, for instance a space near a flower garden or pond. Some people find it helpful during the grieving process to visit the grave of a loved one regularly. For this reason, it may be important to select a cemetery that is conveniently located and in a safe area of town.

A permanent memorial not only serves as a lasting tribute to an individual’s life, but it also provides future generations with a link to their family’s heritage. When you are selecting a cemetery, it is important to keep in mind what type of memorial you may want. Some cemeteries, for instance, do not allow upright monuments. Memorials vary from large upright granite edifices to bronze markers placed level with the ground to blend with the beauty of the landscape. Some families prefer more elaborate memorials that feature a bench or a piece of statuary. Some memorials are engraved with the names of the children or a favorite saying or poem. A married couple might purchase a companion memorial if they are to be buried side by side. Keep in mind that elaborate carving or a long inscription will add to the cost of the memorial.

Entombment is the interment of human remains in a tomb or mausoleum. The casket or urn is placed in a crypt or niche which is then sealed. Mausoleums have individual compartments called crypts where the caskets are placed. Single crypts are designed for one entombment only. There are also double crypts which allow for two caskets to be placed either side by side, lengthwise in one crypt or on top of each other. Urns are placed in a columbarium which is often located within a mausoleum. The columbarium is designed with small niches which hold the urns. Entombment in a mausoleum offers an alternative for those who have an aversion to in-ground burial. In most cases, mausoleum entombment is comparable to the cost of interment in a lot with a permanent memorial. Following a casket entombment, the crypt is sealed and a granite or marble front is attached. The niche which accommodates the urn is covered with a front piece made or granite, marble, bronze, wood or glass.

The cost of a funeral service includes the professional services of the funeral director and staff, the use of facilities, vehicles and desired merchandise. Of course, the total cost will vary according to personal selections as well as from funeral home to funeral home. Funeral directors should work with the family to carry out personal wishes and yet stay within the financial means of the family. The Federal Trade Commission requires every funeral home to publish an itemized price list of services. This is called the general price list. In addition to the specific services to be performed, you will need to make a decision about the merchandise of the funeral. These decisions are the ones that will most directly affect the total cost. Most funeral homes have a selection room on the premises and you’ll be able to see caskets, outer burial containers and other related merchandise in several price ranges. Once the decisions have been made on services and merchandise, you will be asked to sign a statement of funeral goods and services selected. This contract will itemize what is being purchased and will also include the financial terms of the funeral home.

Survivors of deceased workers who have credit for 1½ to 10 years of work covered by Social Security (depending on the age of the worker at time of death) may be entitled to Social Security Administration survivor’s benefits. If you’re eligible, there are two possible types of benefits. The first one is a lump-sum death benefit to be applied toward the burial expenses. The second is a survivor’s benefit for a living spouse or eligible children. When applying for benefits, you’ll need the Social Security number of the deceased, the birth and death certificates of your loved one, and copies of his or her latest income tax return. Many funeral directors will file a notification on the survivor’s behalf for Social Security benefits..

Survivors of honorably discharged veterans of the United States may be eligible for certain funeral and burial benefits. These benefits may include all or part of the following: an American flag, basic burial and plot allowances, transportation costs and a government provided headstone or marker. Burial in national cemeteries is also available for veterans, although application for burial can only be made at time of death. To be eligible for certain benefits, the deceased veteran must have been receiving disability benefits, compensation or a pension. Veteran’s benefits must be applied for – they are not paid automatically. A funeral director will be able to help you apply for these benefits. At the time funeral arrangements are made, you should bring along the discharge papers so that the director can begin the application process.

In order to obtain benefits from life insurance, mortgage or loan insurance, accident insurance, auto insurance, credit card insurance or any other type of insurance, the beneficiary must apply for them. All policies should be examined for burial benefits. All claims should be filed as soon as possible and a certified copy of the death certificate must be presented to each policy holder. If the deceased was employed, you should check with the human resources department of the company to find out if he or she had any insurance policies or pension plans. In addition, you should be informed about money due from sick leave pay, vacation pay or other vested retirement or stock plans. It’s a good idea to contact all previous employers regarding pension or life insurance benefits that may be available. Remember that insurance premiums must continue to be paid while claims are in process or the policy may become invalid. The funeral director can assist you will filing claim forms.

There are many types of estate and lifetime planning documents, including last wills and testaments, revocable living trust agreements, durable powers of attorney for financial decisions, powers of attorney for health care decisions and living will declarations. Properly written and up-to-date estate planning documents can save you and your beneficiaries time and money and ensure the proper distribution of your estate. The information an attorney usually needs to help you plan your estate is a summary list of the property you own and how you own it (individually or as a joint tenant with another person), the estimated value of your property, the names and addresses of your children and other heirs, how you want your property distributed and who you would like to serve as the executor or trustee of your estate.

Planning for the future is a part of everyday life. Indeed, people plan ahead for many of life’s events including weddings, anniversaries and graduations. While it is common to plan for the unexpected by purchasing life, health and automobile insurance, many people overlook the need to plan for the inevitable. Planning for a funeral makes good sense for many reasons. By making your decisions today, while in good health and under normal circumstances, you can help eliminate the possibility of making last minute, uniformed and overly expensive decisions. Pre-arranging your funeral also allows you to meet with several funeral homes to discuss your plans and desires. You’ll also learn about the range of services they are able to offer, as well as the costs involved before making a final decision. Ultimately, planning ahead relieves your family of the burden of making difficult decisions during an emotionally trying time.

A death in the family is always stressful, especially if the family members have the added burden of planning and paying for the funeral and burial services. Pre-arranging ensures that your wishes will be carried out at the time of your death. Your family can take comfort in knowing that the funeral reflects their loved one’s desires. A growing number of people are making the decision to pay for their funeral and memorial arrangements in advance. This offers several advantages, including the ability to make sure the price of services and merchandise you choose now will be guaranteed, no matter what the cost in the future. In general, there are two ways to pre-fund a funeral…individual trusts and insurance plans. While both types of plans are designed to pre-arrange and set aside funds for future funeral services, there are distinct differences that should be understood by any consumer considering a pre-need plan. It is a good idea to talk with the funeral director about the various programs available for pre-funding. Once you have made pre-arrangements for your funeral, keep a copy of the plan in a safe place and inform a friend or relative of the arrangements you’ve made.

If you pre-paid your funeral arrangements using insurance, then it will be necessary to obtain a change of beneficiary application from the insurance company holding the policy. If your arrangements were funded with a trust, certificate of deposit or savings account, then you will need to contact the financial institution to make your request known. They should provide you with the appropriate documents to make such a change.

Grief is the natural response to losing a loved one. It’s also a highly individual reaction. There’s no right or wrong way to work through the grieving process after losing a family member or friend. A number of factors determine how we grieve. Your relationship with the deceased will certainly affect the intensity of your mourning, but so will your age, sex, religion and your previous experiences with death. Guilt, anger, denial, fear, shock, disbelief, depression and finally acceptance are the wide ranging emotions people will feel after a death. Pain and physical ailments are also very real symptoms of grief. Changes in appetite, problems with sleeping and confusion sometimes accompany grief. You may not experience any of these emotions and discomforts and then again you may encounter all of them. People know grief at different levels and intensities and everyone expresses grief in their own unique

There are numerous ways to deal with death of a loved one and the period of grief that follows. You must seek information about the death. This gives you some sense of control of the situation and helps you to distance yourself from your feelings. You have to have a hopeful attitude about living and you should start new rituals. It’s important to reach out to others for comfort. Don’t be afraid to express and share your grief. Spiritual searching will lead you to an understanding and acceptance of death. Everyone deals with grief in their own way. If you are having a difficult time coping with the death of a loved one or you can’t seem to find a way to get back to living your life, you may need professional help. A funeral director can suggest groups, organizations and professionals who specialized in grief counseling and will guide you through this difficult time.

Death is sad, but it is part of the cycle of life. A funeral is an important occasion for a family. Children should have the same privileges as the other members of a family, and that includes the privilege of saying good-bye to a family member at a formal affair. You’ll need to explain the details of the service ahead of time, so the child will be relaxed and less confused by what he or she is about to witness. Prepare the child for looking at the deceased, if the casket will be open. Also talk about the sadness of the occasion and that people will be crying and expressing their feelings. You may want the child to sit close to someone who can answer questions during the service. And you’ll definitely want to discuss the service and death afterwards with the child. No matter how therapeutic the funeral may be, a child should never be forced to attend. If the child is too apprehensive, do not make him or her feel guilty about staying away from the services.

Funerals bring families and friends together for mutual support. During this process your grieving friend may not have a chance to tell you what your presence means, but know that it is very comforting to have you nearby. You can show you care by a hug, a firm handshake or a gentle pat on the shoulder. There’s no need for profound words of compassion; a simple and sincere “I’m sorry” will suffice. Survivors need to talk about the deceased. It’s very important for you to listen to your friend without judging or commenting or relating your personal experiences. Grieving is hard work and it can last a long time. If you’re able to lighten the daily chore load by offering to cook, do laundry or take care of the children, it will be appreciated. Remember that the death of someone close can change a person. Your friend is trying to put his or her life back together and the relationship you have with your friend may change. It’s very important that the friendship continues.

“Your kindness and compassion have been a resting place for my many concerns. It’s truly a comfort to have our needs looked after by a Christian family that understands our loss. Thank you for your help and prayers.”

Phyllis M.
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