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Funeral Arrangements

Funeral arrangements are sometimes made by the person in question to save a family the trouble.

The value of an estate can be a concern when making funeral arrangements. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
The value of an estate can be a concern when making funeral arrangements.

Funeral Arrangements

Making funeral arrangements can seem overwhelming to family members in the event of a sudden death. Individuals may choose to make their own funeral arrangements prior to death to make things easier for loved ones. Sometimes the funeral planning helps the bereaved keep busy and slowly come to terms with the loss. Whatever the circumstances, most people use a funeral home to make funeral arrangements. A funeral provider is often selected based on religious affiliation, location, past experience with the home or a recommendation. Besides deciding whether to bury, entomb or cremate, there are many decisions that affect the cost of the funeral.

Protection for Funeral Planners

According to the Federal Trade Commission, funeral providers must follow the Funeral Rule that is meant to protect grieving relatives and friends from making poor financial decisions due to emotional stress. This law requires all funeral providers to be upfront and honest about their services and costs. Although many funeral homes offer package pricing, this rule requires the funeral provider to put prices in writing for easy comparison. Individuals have the right to choose only the services and products they want and can even purchase a casket from another provider.

Types of Funerals

One of the first funeral considerations is the body's preparation and burial plans. A full-service, or traditional, funeral is usually the most expensive. Direct burial and direct cremation are less expensive options. The types of services a funeral home provides include:

  • A traditional funeral, which includes embalming, dressing the body, a viewing, transporting the body to the cemetery and burial or entombment.
  • A traditional cremation, which includes embalming, dressing the body, a viewing, a container for the body during cremation and crematory fees. An inexpensive container can be purchased and a nicer casket rented for the viewing.
  • A direct burial, which happens shortly after death and usually does not include embalming or a viewing. Funeral home services may include transporting the body and holding a graveside service.
  • A direct cremation, which occurs without embalming. Fees are charged for a container for cremation and crematory services. There is generally no viewing, although a memorial service is optional.
  • A military funeral, which may be handled by a funeral home and has fewer fees.

The family meets with the funeral director to discuss the options and choose a type of funeral and the services desired. Once the family signs a contract, the funeral home will make arrangements to transport the body to its facility and handle embalming, as requested. The funeral director will help with each aspect of the funeral arrangements to ensure the process is as simple as possible for the family.

Selecting a Casket or Other Burial Container

According to AARP, the casket is the most expensive element of a traditional funeral. There are many styles, sizes and types available. Common materials include wood, metal, fiberglass or heavy-duty plastic. The casket can be purchased directly from the funeral home or through specific casket retailers. Some cemeteries also sell them to the general public. In addition to the casket, most cemeteries also require a grave liner or a vault to be purchased when burying the body. It is placed within the grave to support the surrounding ground. Grave liners are also available through the funeral home or the cemetery.

A less expensive container, such as an unfinished wood box, can be purchased for the body during cremation. An urn or other container is needed for the ashes after cremation. Funeral providers may provide an initial urn as part of their fee, or one may be purchased from them or a third-party provider.

Other Funeral Arrangements

Depending on the religious affiliation of the family, other funeral arrangements may be planned. A funeral service may be arranged by a family priest or church, or the funeral director may provide a service themselves. The religious representative and the funeral director will correlate plans with the family to plan each aspect of the service, including items like prayer services, masses, the ceremonies and receptions afterward.

The funeral director assists the family in announcing the death through the local death notices. They may make arrangements for car transportation, flowers and aiding the family in preparing the body for viewing. This includes picking clothing for the deceased, applying makeup and following religious customs.

Choosing a Burial Site

The final step in making traditional funeral arrangements is choosing a cemetery, plot or crypt and headstone. The funeral director may aid in choosing the right cemetery and plot for burial. The cemetery may have restrictions and limitations in place for certain areas for certain types of vaults. The costs for the burial process may include charges for opening the burial vault for interment and extra costs for replacing it. Maintenance fees may be charged only once at the time of burial (which is called perpetual care), or there may be a yearly fee paid to the cemetery by the family. Headstones are often an additional cost. These are available for purchase through the funeral provider, the cemetery or a third-party provider.

Another option is to use a mausoleum or columbarium. The costs may be similar to a burial plot, and fees often are charged for opening and closing the crypt and maintenance. A visit to the cemetery may be necessary to choose the proper location. The funeral provider may offer information, guidance and aid in selecting the best location for the family and budget.

Planning Military Funerals

A deceased person that served in the U.S. Armed Forces, their family members and certain civilians may be eligible for a military burial. Funeral providers or local Veterans Affairs offices can help with the planning a military funeral. The burial in a national cemetery and a grave marker are free. Eligibility for this type of funeral varies considerably by state and military involvement. To learn more about these benefits and services available, visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. This Web site also provides local office contact information.

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