FAQ

Do you realize?
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, The Disaster Center, Men’s Health Consulting, Women’s Health Foundationsand U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Center for Health Statistics – February 28,2005 Fact Sheet, a unit of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia. The Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Funeral/Cremation 101
Information taken from the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection Funerals – A Consumer Guide, Federal Trade Commission, June 2006

Funerals: A Consumer Guide
When a loved one dies, grieving family members and friends often are confronted with dozens of decisions about the funeral - all of which must be made quickly and often under great emotional duress. What kind of funeral should it be? What funeral provider should you use? Should you bury or cremate the body, or donate it to science? What are you legally required to buy? What other arrangements should you plan? And, as callous as it may sound, how much is it all going to cost?

Each year, Americans grapple with these and many other questions as they spend billions of dollars arranging more than 2 million funerals for family members and friends. The increasing trend toward pre-need planning - when people make funeral arrangements in advance - suggests that many consumers want to compare prices and services so that ultimately, the funeral reflects a wise and well-informed purchasing decision, as well as a meaningful one.

A Consumer Product
Funerals rank among the most expensive purchases many consumers will ever make. A traditional funeral, including a casket and vault, costs about $6,000, although "extras" like flowers, obituary notices, acknowledgment cards or limousines can add thousands of dollars to the bottom line. Many funerals run well over $10,000.

Yet even if you're the kind of person who might haggle with a dozen dealers to get the best price on a new car, you're likely to feel uncomfortable comparing prices or negotiating over the details and cost of a funeral, pre-need or at need. Compounding this discomfort is the fact that some people "overspend" on a funeral or burial because they think of it as a reflection of their feelings for the deceased.

Pre-Need
To help relieve their families of some of these decisions, an increasing number of people are planning their own funerals, designating their funeral preferences, and sometimes even paying for them in advance. They see funeral planning as an extension of will and estate planning.

Put your preferences in writing, give copies to family members and your attorney, and keep a copy in a handy place. Don't designate your preferences in your will, because a will often is not found or read until after the funeral. And avoid putting the only copy of your preferences in a safe deposit box. That's because your family may have to make arrangements on a weekend or holiday, before the box can be opened.

Should I pay in my funeral/cremation in advance?
Taken from Funerals – A Consumer Guide, Federal Trade Commission, June 2006
Millions of Americans have entered into contracts to prearrange their funerals and prepay some or all of the expenses involved. Laws of individual states govern the prepayment of funeral goods and services; various states have laws to help ensure that these advance payments are available to pay for the funeral products and services when they're needed. But protections vary widely from state to state, and some state laws offer little or no effective protection. Some state laws require the funeral home or cemetery to place a percentage of the prepayment in a state-regulated trust or to purchase a life insurance policy with the death benefits assigned to the funeral home or cemetery.

If you're thinking about prepaying for funeral goods and services, it's important to consider these issues before putting down any money:

What are you are paying for? Are you buying only merchandise, like a casket and vault, or are you purchasing funeral services as well?

What happens to the money you've prepaid? States have different requirements for handling funds paid for prearranged funeral services.

What happens to the interest income on money that is prepaid and put into a trust account?

Are you protected if the firm you dealt with goes out of business?

Can you cancel the contract and get a full refund if you change your mind?

What happens if you move to a different area or die while away from home? Some prepaid funeral plans can be transferred, but often at an added cost.

Be sure to tell your family about the plans you've made; let them know where the documents are filed. If your family isn't aware that you've made plans, your wishes may not be carried out. And if family members don't know that you've prepaid the funeral costs, they could end up paying for the same arrangements. You may wish to consult an attorney on the best way to ensure that your wishes are followed.

What Kind of Funeral Do You Want?
Every family is different, and not everyone wants the same type of funeral. Funeral practices are influenced by religious and cultural traditions, costs and personal preferences. These factors help determine whether the funeral will be elaborate or simple, public or private, religious or secular, and where it will be held. They also influence whether the body will be present at the funeral, if there will be a viewing or visitation, and if so, whether the casket will be open or closed, and whether the remains will be buried or cremated.

Among the choices you'll need to make are whether you want one of these basic types of funerals, or something in between.

"Traditional," full-service funeral
This type of funeral, often referred to by funeral providers as a "traditional" funeral, usually includes a viewing or visitation and formal funeral service, use of a hearse to transport the body to the funeral site and cemetery, and burial, entombment or cremation of the remains.

It is generally the most expensive type of funeral. In addition to the funeral home's basic services fee, costs often include embalming and dressing the body; rental of the funeral home for the viewing or service; and use of vehicles to transport the family if they don't use their own. The costs of a casket, cemetery plot or crypt and other funeral goods and services also must be factored in.

Every family is different, and not everyone wants the same type of funeral.

Direct burial
The body is buried shortly after death, usually in a simple container. No viewing or visitation is involved, so no embalming is necessary. A memorial service may be held at the graveside or later. Direct burial usually costs less than the "traditional," full-service funeral. Costs include the funeral home's basic services fee, as well as transportation and care of the body, the purchase of a casket or burial container and a cemetery plot or crypt. If the family chooses to be at the cemetery for the burial, the funeral home often charges an additional fee for a graveside service.

Direct cremation
The body is cremated shortly after death, without embalming. The cremated remains are placed in an urn or other container. No viewing or visitation is involved, although a memorial service may be held, with or without the cremated remains present. The remains can be kept in the home, buried or placed in a crypt or niche in a cemetery, or buried or scattered in a favorite spot. Direct cremation usually costs less than the "traditional," full-service funeral. Costs include the funeral home's basic services fee, as well as transportation and care of the body. A crematory fee may be included or, if the funeral home does not own the crematory, the fee may be added on. There also will be a charge for an urn or other container. The cost of a cemetery plot or crypt is included only if the remains are buried or entombed.

Funeral providers who offer direct cremations also must offer to provide an alternative container that can be used in place of a casket.

FUNERAL and CREMATION TERMS
Administrator - Any court appointed person or body put in charge of the estate of a person who passed on without a will.

Arrangement Room - A room in the funeral home set aside for funeral home staff and the bereaved family to make funeral arrangements.

Attorney in Fact - Any person granted the power of attorney.

Beneficiary - Any recipient of the proceeds of a will or insurance policy.

Bequest - Any gift of property made in a will.

Bereaved - The immediate family of the deceased.

Burial Permit - Required by some states for human remains to be buried or cremated. Usually acquired by the mortuary or crematory, it is not required for the scattering of cremated ashes.

Casket - A casket is any container designed for holding human remains. It may be made of wood, metal or fiberglass. They are seldom called "coffins' in the funeral industry.

Cemetery - Ground for burial, in which final aspects of the funeral ceremony are often held.

Cortege - The funeral procession.

Columbarium - Structure or building designed for the housing of urns of cremated remains, in niches.

Cremation - A regulated process using intense heat in a chamber to burn human remains. It typically takes 2 to 4 hours.

Crematory - A building with a furnace for the purpose of cremating human remains.

Crypt - Technically, any chamber that holds a casket and human remains. More narrowly, an individual chamber in a mausoleum.

Death Certificate - A legal document, signed by a coroner or other medical health professional certifying the death of an individual. The death certificate is used for many legal processes pertaining to death, from arrangement for interment to the settlement of estate assets.

Disinter - To dig up human remains, possibly for medical or legal investigation.

Display Room - A room in a funeral home set aside for viewing available caskets, urns, grave liners, etc.

Disposition -Refers to any manner in which remains will be finally taken care of, including ground burial, ash scattering of cremated remains and all other forms of placement.

Embalming - Embalming is the procedure using chemicals, such as formaldehyde, to temporarily preserve human remains. Embalming is not required by any state or federal law.

Eulogy -A eulogy is a form of public speaking at funerals used to honor and praise the deceased.

Estate Tax - Federal and state taxes applied to any property that is transferred at death.

Executor/Executrix - Male or female named as the person who administers an estate.

Exhume - To dig up human remains, possibly for medical or legal investigation.

Funeral Director - The professional who prepares the body for burial, supervises burial and other services, and maintains a funeral home for these purposes. Also called a mortician or undertaker.

Funeral Insurance - Funeral insurance is an insurance policy designed to cover any costs directly related to your funeral.

Funeral Home - Any licensed, regulated business that provides for the care, planning and preparation of human remains for their final resting place. A mortuary usually arranges and conducts funeral and memorial services, embalming and other services such as the sale of caskets.

Funeral Service - Ceremony, religious or secular, in which the bereaved say goodbye to the deceased in various ways, before the remains are permanently interred.

Funeral Spray - A large bouquet (25 or more) of cut flowers sent to the residence or the funeral home as a tribute to the deceased.

Grave Liner - A box or receptacle made of concrete or other durable material into which the casket is placed to prevent the ground from collapsing. Most states do not require it, though most cemeteries do.

Green Burial - Green burial also called direct burial, is the process of burying a body without the use of chemical preservation in a simple container to help preserve the earth.

In State - The custom of presenting the deceased for viewing by mourners and others, prior to or after the funeral service.

Interment - The act of burying a dead body in a grave.

Intestate - Having left behind no legal will.

Inurnment - Placing cremation ashes in an urn.

Liabilities - Remaining debts and mortgages, as they apply to the administering of an estate.

Life Insurance Trust - A trust funded from money provided from life insurance.

Living Trust - A trust that has been established during the life of the trustee.

Living Will - A legal document that details the wishes of an individual concerning his or her medical care, especially with respect to life-sustaining technology and resuscitation.

Mausoleum - A structure or building, often on cemetery grounds, that holds caskets and remains.

Morgue - These are usually municipally operated places, where bodies found dead are held pending identification by next of kin.

Mortuary - Any licensed, regulated business that provides for the care, planning and preparation of human remains for their final resting place. A mortuary usually arranges and conducts funeral and memorial services, embalming and other services such as the sale of caskets.

Niche - In a columbarium, an individual chamber wherein an urn is placed.

Opening and Closing Fees - Cemetery fees for the digging and refilling of a grave.

Pallbearers - Individuals (close family members in most areas of the continent; hired, in other areas) who are asked to carry the casket.

Perpetual Care Trust Funds - A certain portion of the cost of a burial plot is set aside in a trust fund for its ongoing care (usually restricted to grounds keeping, such as lawn cutting, etc.)

Personalized Funerals - personalized funeral is a non-traditional type of funeral growing in popularity.

Pre-need or Pre-planning - re-planning is arranging all aspects of your funeral (especially financing) in advance. There are some problems with the process, especially in some states.

Probate - The court process of proving the validity of a will.

Remains - The body of the deceased.

Reposing RoomvA room of the funeral home where the body rests until the funeral service.

Right of Survivorship - Occurs when a joint property owner has provided for the passing of all property into the hands of the surviving joint owner. This will forego the need for probate.

Rigor Mortis - The cooling of the body and increased rigidity of muscles that sets in after death.

Testator - A person making a valid will.

Trust - Usually a fund, though it may be made up of other property. It is held and managed by one person for the benefit of another (or others).

Urn - Any container made for holding cremated human remains.

Vault - A solid "container," usually made of concrete, to prevent leakage from the casket into the soil. Many insiders in the industry advise that a grave liner is sufficient and a vault does not really do what is purported to.

Vigil - In Roman Catholicism, a service held on the eve of the funeral service.

Visitation - Usually held at the funeral home, this is a scheduled time when the body is on display (if appropriate) and friends and family pay respects to the dead and visit with each other.

Wake - A wake is a traditional watch over the deceased usually conducted by family members and close friends.

Will - A will is a legal document stating the intentions of the deceased concerning the dispersal of their belongings, the care of their remains and other relevant matters.

**Print complete FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection Funerals – A Consumer Guide at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/pdf-0056-funerals.pdf