Frequently Asked Questions

General Funeral Questions

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General Funeral Questions

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What is the General Price List and why is it important?

The General Price List (GPL) is a written, itemized price list that every funeral home is required by law to provide to consumers upon request. It lists all the items and services that the funeral home offers, along with the cost of each item or service. This list is yours to keep.

What are my rights under the Funeral Rule?

Under the Funeral Rule, you have the right to:

  • Buy only the funeral arrangements you want
  • Get pricing information over the phone
  • Get a written, itemized price list when you visit a funeral home
  • See a written casket price list before you actually view the caskets
  • See a written outer burial container price list
  • Receive a written statement after you select what you want, but before paying for it
  • Get an explanation in the written statement from the funeral home that describes any legal cemetery or crematory requirement that requires you to buy any funeral goods or services
  • Use an alternative container instead of a casket for cremation
  • Provide the funeral home with a casket or urn you buy elsewhere
  • Make funeral arrangements without embalming

For detailed information on your rights under the Funeral Rule, visit the FTC website at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0300-ftc-funeral-rule.

What is the FTC Funeral Rule?

According to the official FTC website, “The Funeral Rule, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), makes it possible for you to choose only those goods and services you want or need and to pay only for those you select, whether you are making arrangements when a death occurs or in advance. The Rule allows you to compare prices among funeral homes, and makes it possible for you to select the funeral arrangements you want at the funeral home you use. (The Rule does not apply to third-party sellers, such as casket and monument dealers, or to cemeteries that lack an on-site funeral home.)”

Why are funerals so expensive?

A traditional funeral involves a number of services which add to the total cost. Besides a non-declinable basic services fee, other charges may include removal/transfer of the body to the funeral home; embalming; other preparation of the body; use of facilities and staff for viewing; use of facilities and staff for the funeral ceremony; use of a hearse, service car, or van; a basic memorial printed package; metal casket, a vault or grave liner, and purchase of a cemetery plot.

What does the average funeral cost?

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the median cost of a traditional funeral is approximately $7045. This includes the cost of embalming and a metal casket. The purchase of the gravesite and a burial vault or liner can add as much as $3000 more to the $7045 cost.

What is plastination?

Plastination is a process used to preserve bodies or body parts by removing the water and fat in the body and replacing it with special plastics. Plastination is used to produce anatomical specimens that do not smell or decay. The plastinated parts retain most of their original properties, and can be touched and studied. It is possible to plastinate something as small as a piece of tissue, or as large as an entire human body. Plastination is useful in preserving bodies that have been donated to science by converting them to models and teaching tools.

What is cryonics?

Cryonics (or cryogenics) is the practice of freezing and storing bodies in liquid nitrogen to temperatures colder than -330 degrees Celsius. Instead of burial or cremation at the time of death, some people have chosen to be cryogenically frozen, in the hopes of being thawed and brought back to life at some point in the future. Pets have also been cryogenically frozen.

Who is responsible for the upkeep of a grave in a cemetery?

The cemetery owner is generally responsible for the upkeep and maintenance. Generally, whoever pays the property tax on the property is considered the owner. The cemetery may be owned by an individual, a corporation, or other entity, such as a church, town, city, township, county, or state.

What are grave markers made of?

Markers are commonly made of some type of durable stone such as granite, fieldstone, marble, limestone, sandstone, or slate. Other materials may include bronze, or wood. Some people choose to mark a grave with a special planting, such as a tree or shrub.

What is the purpose of a monument or grave marker?

Grave markers, commonly known as headstones, tombstones, or gravestones, are placed over the grave to mark the resting place of the deceased. The markers are usually made of stone and have the deceased’s name, dates of birth and death, and perhaps an inspirational message or scripture quote. Markers may also incorporate sculpture or other funerary art. The purpose of the grave marker is to provide the bereaved a focus for mourning and remembrance when they visit the grave.

Should young children be permitted to attend funerals?

Death is a natural and inevitable part of life. Most experts agree that children should not be shielded from death. Parents should take into consideration the age of the child, his capability to understand what is happening, and the type of funeral service that will be held, and make a decision accordingly. If the parent believes the child is capable of handling the situation, then they may discuss the death itself and the meaning of the funeral ceremony in age-appropriate language. Patience and understanding from the parent is important. The child should always be allowed to ask questions and to grieve if needed.

What is a eulogy?

The eulogy is a speech delivered at a funeral service in honor of the deceased. The person delivering the eulogy is usually a close friend, member of the clergy, or family member.

What is a memorial video?

Memorial videos are often included as part of a funeral, viewing, or memorial service. They serve as a tribute to the life of the deceased, and may incorporate photos, music, inspirational quotes, clips from home movies, and other media. The memorial video is often presented in a slideshow format. Copies of the video are provided to family members as a memento from the service.

Memorial videos are often included as part of a funeral, viewing, or memorial service. They serve as a tribute to the life of the deceased, and may incorporate photos, music, inspirational quotes, clips from home movies, and other media. The memorial video is often presented in a slideshow format. Copies of the video are provided to family members as a memento from the service.

There are a number of ways you can personalize a funeral by including elements that address some unique aspect of the deceased’s life. Think about the qualities for which your loved one is remembered, their hobbies and passions, achievements, and shared memories. You may then incorporate these ideas into specific elements. These elements might include:

  • Special music
  • A photo slideshow celebrating the deceased’s life
  • A photo slideshow celebrating the deceased’s life
  • “Take home” mementos or tokens of appreciation that reflect some aspect of the deceased’s personality
  • A tribute table to honor the deceased’s interests and hobbies
  • Websites featuring “memory pages” where visitors can view photos, add comments, etc.
  • A memory book or memory cards, where friends and family can write down their favorite memories of the loved one, and keep for future remembrance

When and why did the custom of embalming become widespread in the United States?

Embalming was not generally practiced in America until the advent of the Civil War. Until then, most people died within their own community, and were directly buried without embalming very soon following death. However, the many battles fought between 1861 and 1865 saw death on a scale theretofore unseen. Soldiers died in massive numbers, far from their homes. Many families wished to see their loved ones once more, and bury them in familiar ground. This created an urgent need for a better way to preserve the bodies, so they could be returned for later burial at home.

Dr. Thomas Holmes, a physician with embalming experience, is given credit for the surge in embalming during this time. He reportedly embalmed over 4000 bodies of Union officers throughout the war, as well as developing his own embalming solution which he produced and sold to other physicians. Sources report that around 40,000 men of the 650,000 killed during the war were embalmed.

After the war ended, embalming fell out of popularity because, once more, people who died were usually close to home and the family could provide their own death care. Interest in embalming arose again around the turn of the century. Many people are surprised to learn that embalming is a comparatively recent custom that is more commonly practiced in America than in many other countries.

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