Consumer Resource Guide
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 the consumer complaint department of the state attorney general’s office. In most instances, the complaint will be resolved by the local funeral director.
Is it possible to have a traditional funeral if someone with AIDS dies?
Yes. Death because of AIDS is no different than any other cause of death.
After my death, how can my funeral home send me to my cemetery which is out of state?
In many cemeteries today, there is a funeral home on the grounds. If not, then arrangements would have to be made with the cemetery or a local funeral home to pick up the body and transfer it to the cemetery.
How long can you wait to have a funeral without embalming?
Most states require that a deceased person either be embalmed or placed in refrigeration after a period of 24 hours from the time of death. Funeral services can be held at any time after that. In some areas of the country that time frame could be as long as three weeks.
Does VA pay for veterans’ funerals?
Although the Veterans Administration does not pay for complete funerals, it does provide certain merchandise, services and reimbursements. Your local VA office or funeral home can provide you with the 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 liner, bronze marker and a flag holder appropriately marked with the veteran’s rank, war served and religious icon.
What happens if someone close to me dies away from home?
After the death has occurred, the most prudent decision would be to call your funeral service provider in your home town. Your funeral director will be able to make the necessary arrangements to transfer the deceased, relieving the family of the burden of dealing with unfamiliar people, places and related issues.
How many pallbearers will be needed?
The traditional format regarding the number of pallbearers is 6, primarily due to the length of the standard casket, so that 3 people on either side can conveniently carry the casket. Most caskets have additional handles at each end which will accommodate 2 more bearers.
If I donate my remains to medical science, can there still be a service?
In addition to coordinating the donation, your funeral service provider can arrange for either a Memorial Service or a Gathering of Friends to be held at a time and place convenient for the family.
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.
What is a memory table and/or a memory board?
At the funeral home, a memory table may be used to display personal items of the deceased. A memory board would have a collection of family photographs attached and can be displayed on an easel at the funeral home for visitors to reminisce about their life experiences with the deceased.
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 art work displayed. A person’s favorite rocking chair could be brought to the funeral home and placed next to the casket.
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. You funeral provider can help you determine how many you may need to settle an estate and also secure them for you.
Must a casket be transported to the cemetery in a hearse?
While a hearse or casket coach is most commonly used for this purpose, other options are often appropriate. Families might consider more personalized and meaningful options; for example, a fire fighter may be transported on a fire truck.
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 childs 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.
Must an obituary be published in a newspaper?
The publication of an obituary notice is a matter of your personal choice. While most newspapers control the editorial format, you have the right to limit the amount of information, if any, provided to them.
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.
Must I purchase a burial vault?
In most areas of the country, state or local law does not require that you buy a container to surround the casket in the grave. However, many cemeteries require that you have such a container so that the ground will not sink. Either a graveliner or a burial vault will satisfy these requirements.
What are burial vaults and grave liners?
These are the outside containers into which the casket is placed. Burial vaults are designed to protect the casket, and may be made of a variety or combination of materials including concrete, stainless steel, galvanized steel, copper, bronze, plastic or fiberglass. A graveliner is a lightweight version of a vault which simply keeps the grave surface from sinking in.
Can I build my 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 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 as a later time; however, you need to consider several things. Who will store the casket, you or the company you purchased it from?
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 a 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 are the different types of burial caskets?
Most caskets are made of either wood or metal. Metal caskets are made of either bronze, copper, steel or stainless steel. Wood caskets are available in a variety of types of wood. Interiors of caskets are usually made with velvet or crepe; however, other materials may be available. Consult your local provider for options in your area.
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.
Will life insurance pay for funerals?
Yes, as a convenient method of payment, most quality 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.
May I make all 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.
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.
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.
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 to 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.
Does a 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 offered 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.
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, vaults, urns, etc. The average regular adult funeral in the U.S. in 1996 cost $4,287, according to the Federated Funeral Directors of America.
How soon after or long after a death must an individual be buried?
This may vary by state so check with your local funeral director. Considerations include the need to secure all permits and authorizations, notification of family and friends, preparation of cemetery site and religious considerations. For example, Orthodox Judaism requires that the body be interred within 24 hours of death. Some states have limitations on the maximum length of time allowed to pass prior to final disposition. Consult your local funeral provider for any applicable regulations.
What are the options concerning the time of a service?
While most services are held in the morning or afternoon, some families are now choosing to have services held in the evening hours for the convenience of family and friends. This enables more people to attend the service who otherwise might be unable to be excused from their place of employment during the day.
Is it ok 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.
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 share 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.
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.
Do funeral directors get to take advantage of the bereaved?
The most important quality that enables the funeral director to provide services in the community is his or her reputation for honesty and good will. In fact, a good reputation is the key factor in being able to stay in business. If a particular funeral director took advantage of the bereaved, it would not be long before the community responded to those actions by going to a different funeral director.
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 does require.
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.
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.