Why have a Funeral?
Funerals fill an important role for those mourning the loss of a loved one. By providing surviving family and friends with an atmosphere of care and support in which to share thoughts and feelings about death, funerals are the first step in the healing process. It is the traditional way to recognize the finality of death. Funerals are recognized rituals for the living to show their respect for the dead and to help survivors begin the grieving process.
You can have a full funeral service even for those choosing cremation. Planning a personalized ceremony or service will help begin the healing process. Overcoming the pain is never easy, but a meaningful funeral or tribute will help.
What does a Funeral Director do?
- Pick up the deceased and transport the body to the funeral home (anytime day or night)
- Notify proper authorities, family and/or relatives
- Arrange and prepare death certificates
- Provide certified copies of death certificates for insurance and benefit processing
- Work with the insurance agent, Social Security or Veterans Administration to ensure that necessary paperwork is filed for receipt of benefits
- Prepare and submit obituary to the newspapers of your choice
- Bathe and embalm the deceased body, if necessary
- Prepare the body for viewing including dressing and cosmetizing
- Assist the family with funeral arrangements and purchase of casket, urn, burial vault and cemetery plot
- Schedule the opening and closing of the grave with cemetery personnel, if a burial is to be performed
- Coordinate with clergy if a funeral or memorial service is to be held
- Arrange a police escort and transportation to the funeral and/or cemetery for the family
- Order funeral sprays and other flower arrangements as the family wishes
- Provide Aftercare, or grief assistance, to the bereaved
What do I do when a death occurs?
The funeral home will help coordinate arrangements with the cemetery.
- Bring the following information to complete the State vital statistic requirements:
- Birth Date
- Father's Name
- Mother's Name
- Social Security Number
- Veteran's Discharge or Claim Number
- Marital Status
- Contact your clergy. Decide on time and place of funeral or memorial service. This can be done at the funeral home.
- The funeral home will assist you in determining the number of copies of the death certificates you will be needing and can order them for you.
- Make a list of immediate family, close friends and employer or business colleagues. Notify each by phone.
- Decide on appropriate memorial to which gifts may be made (church, hospice, library, charity or school).
- Gather obituary information you want to include such as age, place of birth, cause of death, occupation, college degrees, memberships held, military service , outstanding work, list of survivors in immediate family. Include time and place of services. The funeral home will normally write article and submit to newspapers (newspaper will accept picture and they will be returned intact).
- Arrange for members of family or close friends to take turns answering door or phone, keeping careful record of calls. If Social Security checks are automatic deposit, notify the bank of the death.
When I call, will someone come right away?
If you request immediate assistance, yes. If the family wishes to spend a short time with the deceased to say good-bye, that’s perfectly acceptable. Your funeral director will come when your time is right.
Should I Choose Burial or Cremation?
Burial in a casket is the most common method of disposing of remains in the United States, although entombment also occurs. Cremation is increasingly selected because it can be less expensive and allows for the memorial service to be held at a more convenient time in the future when relatives and friends can come together.
A funeral service followed by cremation need not be any different from a funeral service followed by a burial. Usually, cremated remains are placed in urn before being committed to a final resting place. The urn may be buried, placed in an indoor or outdoor mausoleum or columbarium, or interred in a special urn garden that many cemeteries provide for cremated remains. The remains may also be scattered, according to state law.
Why have a public viewing?
Viewing is a part of many cultural and ethnic traditions. Many grief specialists believe that viewing aids the grief process by helping the bereaved recognize the reality of death. Viewing is encouraged for children, as long as the process is explained and the activity is voluntary.
What is the purpose of embalming?
Embalming sanitizes and preserves the body. Embalming makes it possible to lengthen the time between death and the final disposition, allowing family members time to arrange and participate in the type of service most comforting to them.
Does a dead body have to be embalmed, according to law?
The Federal Trade Commission says, "Except in certain special cases, embalming is not required by law. Embalming may be necessary, however, if you select certain funeral arrangements, such as a funeral with viewing. If you do not want embalming, you usually have the right to choose an arrangement that does not require you to pay for it, such as direct cremation or immediate burial."
Why are funerals so expensive?
When compared to other major life events like births and weddings, funerals are not expensive. A wedding costs at least three times as much; but because it is a happy event, wedding costs are rarely criticized. A funeral home is a 24-hour, labor-intensive business, with extensive facilities (viewing rooms, chapels, limousines, hearses, etc.), these expenses must be factored into the cost of a funeral.
Additionally, the cost of a funeral includes not only merchandise, like caskets, but the services of a funeral director in making arrangements; filing appropriate forms; dealing with doctors, ministers, florists, newspapers and others; and seeing to all the necessary details. Funeral directors look upon their profession as a service, but it is also a business. Like any business, funeral homes must make a profit to exist.
Do I have to make different funeral arrangements if I chose cremation?
It really depends entirely on how you wish to commemorate a life. One of the advantages of cremation is that it provides you with increased flexibility when you make your funeral and cemetery arrangements. You might, for example, choose to have a funeral service before the cremation; a memorial service at the time of cremation or after the cremation with the urn present; or a committal service at the final disposition of cremated remains. Funeral or memorial services can be held in a place of worship, a funeral home or in a crematory chapel.
What can be done with the cremated remains?
With cremation, your options are numerous. The cremains can be interred in a cemetery plot, i.e., earth burial, retained by a family member, usually in an urn, scattered on private property, or at a place that was significant to the deceased. (It would always be advisable to check for local regulations regarding scattering in a public place-your funeral director can help you with this.)
Today, there are many different types of memorial options from which to choose. Memorialization is a time-honored tradition that has been practiced for centuries. A memorial serves as a tribute to a life lived and provides a focal point for remembrance, as well as a record for future generations. The type of memorial you choose is a personal decision.
What is memorialization for a cremation?
You might choose ground burial of the urn. If so, you may usually choose either a bronze memorial or monument. Cremation niches in columbariums are also available at many cemeteries. They offer the beauty of a mausoleum setting with the benefits of above ground placement of remains. Many cemeteries also offer scattering gardens. This area of a cemetery offers the peacefulness of a serene garden where family and friends can come and reflect.
Can we scatter the cremated remains?
If you wish to have your ashes scattered somewhere, it is important to discuss your wishes to be scattered ahead of time with the person or persons who will actually have to do the cremation ashes scattering ceremony, as they might want to let your funeral professional assist in the scattering ceremony. Funeral directors can also be very helpful in creating a meaningful and personal ash scattering ceremony that they will customize to fit your families specific desires. The services can be as formal or informal as you like. Scattering services can also be public or private. Again, it is advisable to check for local regulations regarding scattering in a public place-your funeral director can help you with this.
If I am cremated, can I be buried with my spouse even if he or she was in a casket?
Yes — Depending upon the cemetery's policy, you may be able to save a grave space by having the cremains buried on top of the casketed remains of your spouse, or utilize the space provided next to him/her. Many cemeteries allow for multiple cremated remains to be interred in a single grave space.
What do I need to know about income tax when I lose a spouse?
Uncertainty about income tax issues can add to the stress experienced from the death of a spouse. You should meet with your family attorney and/or tax advisor as soon as possible to review your particular tax and estate circumstances. Bring a detailed list of your questions to the meeting. If you do not have an attorney or tax advisor, call the IRS toll-free at 800-829-1040 for answers to specific tax questions.
Is there financial help if I need it?
There are a number of options available, including:
- Determine if the deceased person qualifies for any entitlements. Check with the Social Security Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and with your State Fund. Many people are entitled to get financial assistance with their funeral costs from these agencies if they qualify.
- Review all insurance policies the deceased person has, including life insurance. Some life insurance policies have coverage clauses for funeral related costs.
- Find local charities providing financial help for funeral expenses. Search for non profit organizations and for churches in your area.
- Talk to your funeral director about cremation options - these can be much less expensive depending on your choices.
Is embalming required by law?
No, law only in rare circumstances requires embalming. But most funeral homes do not allow public viewing without embalming. In many instances we are able to offer families the opportunity for a private viewing prior to burial with minimal preparation not involving embalming.
Is a casket required for cremation?
No, a casket is not required by law for cremation. The law requires a minimal alternative container (usually cardboard). Families always have the option to use a casket if they so desire and there are many reasonably priced caskets made specifically for cremation. Many families choose to have a visitation and/or service prior to cremation and would like to select a suitable casket
Is a casket required for burial?
The law does not require a casket for burial. In cases where direct burial is chosen, families may use an alternative container that is the least expensive alternative. We also have many reasonably priced caskets starting at $595.
Do you have to buy the casket at the funeral home?
No. Today there are several alternatives to buying a casket at a funeral home. In 1994 the Federal Trade Commission extended the Funeral Rule by prohibiting funeral homes from charging a surcharge for handling a casket bought elsewhere. You may buy a casket at a casket store and even some cemeteries sell caskets. One thing to remember, however, is that FTC regulations do not presently cover cemeteries and casket stores. Covenant Funeral & Crematory features caskets from several major companies in the casket industry at reasonable prices. While our purpose in maintaining a casket selection room is to meet the needs of the clients for whom we provide services, we cannot, legally, refuse to sell a casket for use at a different funeral provider.
Is there a legal way to protect family assets when a person is going on Medicaid?
Yes. With nursing home costs averaging $3000-4000 per month, many individuals outlive their assets and need to go on Medicaid. It is in the best interest of the resident and his/her family to make funeral pre-arrangements and pre-fund them during the so-called 'spend down' process prior to going on Medicaid This allows the funeral expenses to be pre-paid and not become a burden for the surviving family. It is imperative that this be done in a way that complies with Medicaid regulations. You may wish to review our section on PRE-ARRANGEMENT . For more information click here (please include shipping address) or phone (423) 485-0911 TODAY.
Are there environmentally friendly options for funerals and cremation?
Some people consider cremation to be environmentally friendly since the cremains do not take up as much space as a burial would. There are biodegradable urns that can be used for burial at sea or for burial in the ground. The urn is made of special clay that disintegrates rapidly when in contact with water. Many caskets today are made out of corrugated paper products or a variety of woods that will eventually return to the elements.
What are some ways to make a funeral really commemorate the person's life?
The key to commemorating a person's life is to highlight what was unique about that person somewhere within the funeral process. Was the person a gardener? His favorite types of flowers could be incorporated into the funeral flowers. A grouping of favorite plants, even shrubs, could be arranged as a miniature garden during the visitation and later planted in his memory. Music can also evoke memories of the person or her heritage. For people of Scottish or Irish heritage, the bagpipes can provide a poignant touch to the ceremony. Choosing a favorite place for the visitation or memorial service can be comforting for family and friends. Many places other than funeral homes are available, such as the individual's home, place of worship, a favorite park or stream. More and more people are spending their last years in retirement villages or assisted living centers. These locations usually have a community room or chapel that quite often is available for a memorial service or even a visitation. There are as many other ways to commemorate a person's life as there are people; but giving thought to this in advance is the best way to assure that the plans are carried out well.
What are some alternatives to having a visitation in a funeral home?
In most countries of the world, except the United States, visitations are not held in funeral homes. Today in this country, more people are looking for alternatives to the sometimes sterile or unfamiliar funeral home setting. Visitations can be held in almost any location. Many people today prefer to have a visitation in their church. With an increasing number of people living in retirement or assisted living homes, many of these have begun allowing visitations for residents. There are also a number of community or historic facilities that provide a very comfortable homelike setting for visitations. And of course a person's own home is still a perfectly appropriate option.
Aren't funeral and cremation prices pretty much the same everywhere?
Not at all. Prices vary a lot from funeral home to funeral home, even in the same town. Variations of hundreds- even thousands- of dollars are not uncommon. We advise people to check with several funeral providers in their area before making a decision. By law funeral homes must give complete information over the phone, and callers need not even identify themselves. It's important to get the true 'bottom line' for the entire funeral cost. Some firms may have lower service charges but higher casket prices. Recently some firms have raised their service charges and lowered their casket prices in an attempt to compete with alternative providers. Beware of one tactic: some funeral directors have raised their itemized service charges to outrageous levels, but give you a significant 'discount' if you buy the casket from them. This is a practice that is being investigated by the FTC since it conflicts with the spirit of the policy that funeral homes may not levy a surcharge on caskets bought elsewhere.
How do I get candid information about funeral and cremation prices?
You can call, or better yet, visit several funeral homes. Be sure to ask for a General Price List. Also ask for a Casket Price List. They are not required by law to give the Casket Price List to you, but many reputable firms will.
What are the pros and cons of buying cemetery lots in advance?
On the plus side, some people want the assurance of knowing their graves will be close to other family members. Obviously, the longer one puts off the purchase, the more likelihood that adjoining graves will be sold to someone else, and prices generally tend to increase as time goes by. On the other hand, there may be many years between the purchase of graves and the person's death. They may move to another city and want to be buried there. They may decide later to be cremated. The cemetery could change ownership and maintenance may become shoddy. The neighborhood where the cemetery is located may become less desirable. Once a person buys a lot it is very difficult to sell.
Is funeral pre-planning always a good idea?
Funeral pre-planning really doesn't have any downside, provided a person does a little homework beforehand. Pre-planning is the process of gathering information on the more than 50 decisions that need to be made at the time of a death. These typically include the disposition arrangements (burial, cremation, anatomical gift), decisions about visitation, funeral or memorial services, and merchandise (casket, urn, burial vault, etc). These are the basic decisions that determine the major portion of the cost of funeral arrangements. Some people may desire to go further and make decisions about flowers, music, scripture or readings for the service, and so on. In either case these decisions should be written down and communicated to a trusted friend or relative who may be in charge of carrying out the wishes. Funeral providers generally have forms that can be used for this purpose and will maintain the decisions in their files if you wish. Completing these decisions removes a large emotional burden from families at the time of death. You may wish to review our section on PRE-ARRANGEMENT . For more information click here (please include shipping address) or phone (423) 485-0911 TODAY.
What questions should I ask before pre-paying for a funeral?
Pre-paying funeral expenses can be a good way to complete the planning process. Most pre-payment plans guarantee that the planner will not have to pay extra at the time of the funeral since the earnings on the funding product offset any inflationary increases. It is always a good idea to first make sure all the prices for the services to be rendered are a good value. You should find out where the funds are being held if it is in trust; if an insurance product in being used, make sure the company is reputable and has a good record of claims payment. Also determine if there are any tax consequences to you. And make sure you understand completely what is guaranteed and what is not. You may wish to review our section on PRE-ARRANGEMENT . For more information click here (please include shipping address) or phone (423) 485-0911 TODAY.
What's the best way to go about selecting a funeral or cremation firm?
First determine what your needs and desires are for a funeral service. If you are not having a wake/visitation, then selecting a funeral home with beautiful rooms and extensive parking may result in your paying a lot for facilities you are not using. Personal rapport with the staff is obviously very important. Do they answer all your questions willingly and honestly? Do they offer concrete suggestions consistent with your desires or do they try to fit you into their mold? Above all, do they seem like caring people?
Where can I get books or pamphlets on grief-related subjects, hospice, and the like?
Libraries and larger bookstores usually have a small selection of books on these subjects. A number of Internet sources also have a variety of titles on these subjects; some of the web sites are named in our section on LINKS .
How can I get funeral and cremation information without having to go to a funeral home?
Web sites like the Federal Trade Commission, AARP, NFDA, and Funeral Consumers Alliance have good general information on funerals and cremation. These Web sites and others may be found in our LINKS section.
The Tennessee and Georgia Funeral Directors Associations also have useful pamphlets and information.
What are the rules for Catholics and cremation?
In 1963 an Instruction from the Holy Office lifted the ban on cremation for Roman Catholics, but it was not until 1997 that the Vatican allowed funeral Masses with the cremated remains present. The Church still prefers that the cremation follow the Mass, but this is no longer a requirement. The sanctity of the body requires that the body be placed in a 'worthy vessel' and not be scattered. The cremated remains should be buried in a grave, placed in a mausoleum or columbarium, or buried at sea. Since the application of these guidelines may vary from parish to parish, it is always best to check with the priest to get his views.
Why is cremation becoming so popular?
While we know that cremation has increased dramatically in the past 10 years, the reasons why are not quite as obvious. The easing of restrictions by the Catholic Church has certainly had an effect. Cremation can be a lower-cost alternative than burial. Options for scattering or burying cremains in a place which had significance for the individual may be a factor. Some see cremation as a simpler, quicker way to go from 'ashes to ashes, dust to dust'. Others cite environmental reasons. And some simply don't like the idea of being placed in the ground.
Is cremation less expensive than burial?
That really depends on the type of services one has prior to the final disposition. If a person selects a casket, has a visitation and funeral service followed by cremation and chooses a cremation urn, the cost may be equivalent to a traditional funeral service followed by burial. On the other hand, direct cremation with no embalming, viewing or services is usually the least expensive alternative. It is important to shop around because even prices for the simplest services can vary considerably among funeral and cremation firms.
What's the purpose of a burial vault and what do they cost?
Outer burial containers, also commonly known as burial vaults, are typically required by all perpetual care cemeteries in the metropolitan Chattanooga area to shore up the earth above the casket. The weight of cemetery equipment such as trucks and backhoes would crush the casket if an outer container were not used. Many outer containers have special seals and linings which prevent water and other substances from entering the vault.
What is the first thing to do if a loved one dies out of town?
If a person dies out of town and is to be returned to the home location, it usually is best to contact the hometown funeral provider first. Usually the hometown director can handle all arrangements in the out-of- town location and typically it is far less expensive to make arrangements this way rather than for the family to contact an out-of-town funeral home directly.
Where do I get information on donating my body to science?
Arrangements for the donation of one's body to science must be made in advance and evidenced by authorization forms from the anatomical agency.
What exactly is embalming and how long does it last?
Embalming is a process of injecting preservative fluid through the arterial system to achieve temporary preservation of the body, usually for the purpose of having a visitation and/or funeral service. The duration of this preservation is difficult to predict since it is affected by many factors such as the cause of death, weight of the person, drug and other therapies they may have had, and burial conditions.
What is the bottom line on total funeral costs?
What do I need to know to get the total price?
Funeral costs are divided into three main areas. The first includes the funeral provider's service charges for the type of service desired. These are contained in the General Price List. The second is composed of merchandise items such as caskets, vaults, printed materials, cremation urns and so on. Finally, there are 'outside expenses'--items such as cemetery or crematory charges, newspaper notices, flowers, clergy honoraria, and copies of the death certificate. To get an accurate idea of the funeral home's charges, it is necessary to total up the service and merchandise charges. Some firms may have higher service charges and lower casket prices; some may be just the opposite. The totals can vary anywhere from 10-40%.
What information does the law require funeral directors to give consumers?
The Federal Trade Commission Funeral Rule requires funeral providers to give information from their price lists to consumers who call on the telephone. Callers need not identify themselves. Most funeral firms will mail the General Price List if requested. If a consumer personally visits the provider, the representative must give the consumer a copy of the General Price List when a discussion of funeral pricing takes place. If caskets and outer burial containers are discussed, the consumer must be shown a copy of the Casket Price List and Outer Burial Container Price List. The latter two lists do not by law have to be given to the consumer, only shown to them. Most reputable firms will provide copies of the list if asked.
What makes one casket better than another?
All caskets serve the purpose of containing the remains for burial or cremation purposes. Whether one is 'better' than another is a highly personal and subjective decision. Casket prices, however, vary depending on the outer materials used. The major difference is either metal or wood. Within each of these categories there are a variety of price points. With wood there are simple fiberboard caskets, pines, hardwood veneers, solid hardwoods of increasing beauty such as oak, pecan, cherry and mahogany. Within the metal caskets there are lightweight steel, medium weight steel, stainless steel, solid copper, and solid bronze. As the basic materials increase in cost, the casket finishes, hardware, and interior fabrics typically increase in quality and cost as well.
Why do I need to prepay funeral expenses if I already have a lot of insurance?
If a person's financial portfolio is extensive or there is ample insurance coverage, prepaying for funeral expenses may not be in the person's best interest. There may be reasons other than financial, however, for a person to prepay funeral expenses. This may be a way of insuring that the funeral plans are carried out exactly as specified or it may be a way of completing the circle of planning.
Is it a good idea to put your funeral plans in your will?
Since wills are not usually read until after the funeral, it may not be effective to rely on this to make sure funeral plans are carried out. A better way is to execute a preplanning document and distribute copies to the parties who are likely to be involved, such as the funeral provider and a trusted family member or friend.
What are some ways families can participate in the funeral process that can be therapeutic?
Having some type of funeral service or memorial service is very useful for family and friends. This ceremony may be religious or a simple gathering of friends. In either case it should acknowledge the fact that a person has died, but should also celebrate the person's life. Family members and friends can help personalize the service by helping select special readings or music. Sharing favorite stories or memories during the visitation or service is a wonderful way to celebrate a life. Those in attendance can be given an opportunity to share their memories at a special place in the service or by writing them down and giving them to the family later. Creating a 'memory board' with pictures and captions of the deceased brings all these family events to life. Children can be encouraged to participate by writing or drawing something for 'grandma' that can then be displayed and/or placed in the casket. Choosing the clothing, hairstyle, and jewelry the deceased will wear can be therapeutic.
Should children be allowed to participate in the funeral process?
To the extent they are able, yes. It is important to explain the funeral process to a child so he can understand what to anticipate. It is best to keep the explanation simple but factual and avoid words that might frighten a child. Saying that grandma 'slept away' might cause fear that he might suffer the same fate when he goes to bed. Giving a child a choice to participate or not is better than forcing a decision on the child. For those who wish to be present, it may be helpful to give them ways to express their feelings; even if they don't know what to say, they can draw a picture or be given some small task as part of the funeral process.
What are the legal requirements for the disposition of ashes after cremation?
From a public health standpoint, once a person is cremated there are no further requirements. Local, state, or federal zoning or environmental regulations may affect the way in which ashes/cremains may be disposed of.
How do I go about choosing a monument dealer?
There are many reputable monument/marker dealers in the metropolitan Chattanooga area. Covenant Funeral & Crematory offers for sale monuments and markers at reasonable prices. Most of the products are granite or bronze, highly durable materials, so problems in the future are not usually an issue. The most important factors are 1.) locating the style and material you want and 2.) good value. Since the purchase of a marker is not an urgent decision, the best advice is to shop around.