When You Must Make Funeral Arrangements: What Must Be Done and How Can We Help You.
Your first decision ... choosing a funeral director.
Whena death occurs, the first and most important decision is the choice of the funeral director to be called. And in many cases, the decision is made quickly because of the pressing need or desire to remove the deceased from the place of death, whether it is a hospital, nursing homeor residence.
The decision is a relatively easy one for familieswho are personally acquainted with a funeral director through involvement in church or community activities, social contact or some other relationship. Other families choose a funeral director because they have attended a funeral at his establishment and were impressed by the facility and the professionalism of the staff.
If you do not have the advantage of knowing a funeral director or personally observingthe professional competence of a firm's staff, there are four importantpoints to remember in selecting a funeral director.
- Family members will have several occasions to visit the funeral homebefore and after the service, so convenience will be an important factor, but not necessarily the most important.
- You may want to ask a friend to recommend the firm with which he is familiar. Your clergyman, doctor or nurse may also be of assistance in the event that a friend cannot be helpful.
- If you can't or don't wish to, consult someone, you can usually judge the integrity and stability of a funeral director by the length oftime he has been in business. You can safely assume that a funeral homewhich has been in business for many years has been performing to the satisfaction of the families it serves. Otherwise, it would have long since been forced out of business.
- Perhaps the most important step in making your selection of a funeral director is to call the firm you are considering, discuss any aspects of the arrangements that are of particular concern to you and ask any questions that you feel will aid you in making your final selection.
When you have reached your decision, contact thefuneral home immediately. You will find a funeral director available 24hours a day, seven days a week.
What to expect when you call the funeral director.
Thedirector will tell you, "We'll I have someone come right over." But during the telephone conversation, he will need answers to three questions:
- What is the full name of the deceased?
- What is your full name, home address and telephone number?
- Was there a doctor in attendance when the deceased died?
The reason for the first two questions is obvious.
The third question is important because it is the funeral director's duty toget the death certificate prepared and signed by the appropriate person. If a doctor was attending the deceased at the time of death, he will usually sign the certificate. If no doctor was present, the funeraldirector will advise you to contact the deceased's doctor, the local medical examiner or a justice of the peace, any of whom is authorized tomake the legal declaration of death and its cause. Proper certificationof the cause of death can be important to surviving family members because of accidental death provisions contained in many life insurance policies.
As you talk by telephone, the funeral director will also ask for verbal authorization to embalm the deceased. This is important since, to facilitate the funeral, the embalming procedure should begin without delay when the deceased is removed to the funeral home.
You will also be asked to make an appointment to come to the funeral home to make final arrangements for the funeral, at your convenience, of course.
Making the final arrangements.
Whenyou sit down with the funeral director in the privacy of his office to make final arrangements, you will find that his years of training and experience have equipped him to relieve most of the burden that weighs so heavily on you at that moment. His concern. extends beyond simply caring for the deceased, encompassing also the welfare and desires of the bereaved family members.
What To Bring For The Arrangement Confrence
At the funeral or cremation arrangement cofrence we will need to obtain legal and vital information for completing the deathcertificate and information for finalizing the burial or cremation. Youmay want to bring the following items:
- Social Security Card
- Drivers license or other photo I.D. such as pass port
- Military Discharge Papers (Form DD214)
- Recent photograph for preperation purposes and for Newspaper obits and for our website
- Clothing- all normal items including undergarments. For women, an outfit closed at the neckline and long sleeves. Shoes are optional.
Death certificates are prepared by the funeral home, signed by the either the physician, coroner, medical examiner, or licensed nurse practictioner and then filed with the Office of Vital Records.
Certified copies of the Death Certificate may be necessary for:
- Life insurance
- Pension,IRA or other retirement benefits
- Bank accounts
- Stocks and Bonds
- Real Property
- Motor Vehicles
- Probate of Will
- Final Tax Return
- Personal Record of Death
Please allow 1-2 hours for the Arrangement Confrence.
Preparing necessary forms
Since the law requires that the funeral director submit certain information on the deceased to a state bureau ofvital statistics, he will ask you to help him complete a form for that purpose.
When the form has been completed, the funeral director will begin to lead you through a discussion of the final arrangements byasking questions. His objective is not to influence your decisions, butonly to assure that all aspects of the subject are covered and that youare aware of various options open to you.
Did the deceased pre-arrange his own funeral with this firm?
Ifthe answer to this question is "yes," your task will be made much easier. You need only give the funeral director a copy of the pre-arrangement form, which usually reflects in detail the desires of the deceased as to type of service, casket selection, and most other elements of the funeral. if the arrangements were made with the funeral home you are consulting, the funeral director will have a copy of the pre-arrangement form in his file.
More and more thoughtful peopleare pre-arranging their own funerals these days, to assure that their wishes are carried out and to relieve their bereaved families from the ordeal of making painful decisions when they are emotionally unprepared to do so. Sometimes those pre-arrangements are also pre-paid so the family will be spared many financial worries at the time of death.
If the funeral was not pre-arranged, you will need to make several decisions.
What type of service do you desire?
Mostfamilies choose to hold a traditional religious service, with the casket present and open. But again, the funeral director will be prepared to fulfill your wishes. .The important point here is that you are the person who makes the decision, without influence from the funeral director. He will only inform you of the various options open toyou, if you ask. And he will be able and willing to carry out any reasonable instructions you give him.
You will probably want to include some music in the service, both for its beauty and symbolic significance. The funeral director will help you choose something appropriate from a wide range of musical selections available to you. Many families choose traditional hymns, often with a soloist or singing group to give extra significance to -instrumental music. Other families prefer to use more contemporary selections, either instrumental or vocal. The important measure of the music you select is that it be a meaningful tribute to the deceased. The funeral director can take care of all arrangements for providing the music you select.
Where and when would you like to have the service held?
Youare aware, of course, that the funeral home is available to you. However, some families prefer to have services in their church, and somereligious denominations require it.
The time at which the service will be held is entirely the decision of the family. However, itis wise to consult the funeral director first to avoid conflicts with services that may be previously scheduled at the hour you choose.
Who will officiate at the service?
Ifyou select a religious service, you need only tell the funeral directorthe name of the clergyman you wish to conduct the service. He will contact the clergyman, inform him of your request and the time and placeof the service. The funeral director will greet the clergyman at the service, seat him in the special clergy room at the funeral home and provide him with a copy of the order of service and any needed information for the eulogy. The funeral director will also assist in theservice, if necessary or desirable.
In a non-religious service, amember of the family or close friend will often recite the eulogy. The funeral director is available to provide any assistance needed, or to conduct the service if the family desires.
Who will serve as pallbearers?
Itis customary to choose six pallbearers and as many honorary pallbearersas you wish. The pallbearers carry the casket while honorary pallbearers walk in front of the casket, honoring the memory of the deceased.
If the deceased was a member of a fraternal, veteran, civic or other organization, and you would like to have their funeral ritual conducted, the funeral director will contact the appropriate person for you to make arrangements. In most cases, he will know who to contact in any local organization.
What do you want to do about flowers?
Somefamilies place a floral spray from the family on the casket. You may want to arrange for this floral tribute to be delivered just before the visitation period begins. . For a veteran, a flag can be made available to drape the casket instead of flowers. The funeral director can obtain this flag for you without charge from the Veterans Administration.
Anadditional word about flowers. They are beautiful symbols of love that are sent to the living in memory of the dead. To refuse a gift of love is sometimes considered a rebuff. So may we suggest that you consider carefully before requesting that no flowers be sent to the funeral.
Floraltributes will be delivered to the funeral home by the florists and will, in some instances, have duplicate cards. One card remains with thefloral piece and the other will be delivered to the family with the Memorial Record Book after the funeral.
How would you like the deceased to be dressed?
Itis customary to dress the deceased fully, including undergarments. You may prefer to use the personal clothing of the deceased as most familiesdo. But if you wish, you may purchase suits, dresses and other articlesof clothing from the funeral home.
Long or three-quarter length sleeves are usually preferred for women's attire. Jewelry is appropriate, if desired, and if eyeglasses were usually worn by the deceased, it is customary to put them on. However, this is a decision tobe made by the family.
Will the deceased be interred or cremated?
Ifthe deceased had definite feelings about where the burial should take place, possibly adjacent to other family members, a cemetery lot may have been arranged for in advance of need. In this case, you need only advise the funeral director of the location so that he can make detailedarrangements with cemetery personnel. If a burial plot is to be acquired, you can deal directly with cemetery personnel, or if you wish,the funeral director will assist you.
In choosing cemetery property, we suggest that you consider carefully the financial stabilityof the cemetery to assure yourself that the property will receive proper care in the years to come. Most states require a percentage of the space cost to be used for perpetual care.
In some areas, you may have the option of selecting above-ground interment in a public or private mausoleum. A crypt or group of crypts is arranged for in much the same way as cemetery lots. The funeral director can possibly advise you on this matter if you ask.
If burial in a national cemetery is desired for a veteran or eligible member of his family, the funeral director will help you make the proper arrangements. This will require acopy of the veteran's discharge papers and his social security number.
Cremationis an alternative method of disposition of the human body at death. Through intense heat, the body of one who has died is quickly reduced toashes. In contrast to earth burial, which is a gradual process of reduction to basic elements, cremation accomplishes the same thing in less than a couple of hours.
It is reassuring to know that most of the customs and rituals we have come to expect with a funeral are notsignificantly altered if you request cremation. There can still be visitation and viewing of the deceased. A worship service or ceremony with the body present is usually held. There can also be some form of committal service for the cremated remains.
A family has several options as to what will be done with the cremated remains. They can be put in an urn to be placed in a purchased niche in a columbarium. They can be buried in an earth grave in the simple canister or urn in which they are delivered from the crematory. Or, in some cases where law permits, they can be scattered on the surface of the ground, into flowing streams or over the ocean. Most crematories have a special garden and will dispose of the cremated remains according to a family's request.
The funeral director can make all of the necessary arrangements and will inform you of any local regulations concerning this procedure.
What type of casket would you prefer?
Thefuneral director will take you into the casket selection room, where you will find a wide variety of caskets from which to choose. They will vary in construction, design and color.
You will find caskets ranging in price from about $400 to several thousand dollars. A minimum container is also available for individuals who choose -immediate disposal of the deceased.
Prices will be prominently displayed, and the funeral director will explain the differences in construction that affect the prices.
You may also make arrangements for a burial vault or concrete outer container to enclose the casket. Most cemeteries require an outer container to prevent ground subsidence at the grave site.
The family of the deceased is, of course, completely free to choose the type of casket and outer container that meets their needs and desires.
May we be of assistance in applying for insurance, Social Security, Veteran or other death benefits for the family?
Becausethe funeral director has considerable experience in dealing with the extensive paperwork involved in applying for death benefits from varioussources, many families call on us for help in those matters. Handling death benefit applications is a part of our professional service.
Ifyou prefer to handle them yourself, you may want to ask the funeral director to arrange for the insurance agent or the representatives of other sources of benefits to contact you.
To apply for those benefits, we will need several copies of the death certificate. For Veteran benefits, we will need the deceased's discharge papers and, if possible, the "C" number (or file number) assigned to the deceased by the Veterans Administration if any VA benefits were applied for in the past. For insurance claims, we will need the insurance company name and policy numbers.
What the total cost of the funeral will be.
Whenall elements of the funeral have been discussed and decided upon, the funeral director will furnish you with a completed contract indicating all services and costs. This is to prevent any misunderstandings and to assure that all essential items have been considered.