Frequently Asked Questions



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Planning Ahead

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What is a pre-need contract?

Preplanning involves making decisions in advance on the services and burial or cremation plan you want, and choosing a funeral provider. This is done for a number of reasons: to spare your family the stress and cost of making funeral arrangements at the time of need, to share how you wish to be memorialized, and to pay at current prices.

The pre-need contract must be paid in full or in installments you've agreed on with your provider. Contracts can be either revocable or irrevocable, depending on the agreement.

What are the advantages of preplanning?

Preplanning your final arrangements has a number of advantages:

  • You can document how you'd like to be memorialized, so your loved ones and funeral provider can fulfill your final wishes.
  • It relieves your survivors of the responsibility for making financial and logistical decisions during a stressful and emotional time.
  • Paying for services at current prices may save money, as prices are likely to rise over time.

If I purchase a pre-paid funeral plan, is there any insurance that will fund my expenses for this plan?

You have a few options to fund your pre-paid plan through insurance.

  1. Purchase funeral insurance from an insurance company.
    You can purchase a policy that typically ranges from $3,000 to $15,000 from an insurance company, made payable to a beneficiary immediately after your death. These funds do not go through probate. The money is intended to cover funeral expenses, but can be used in any way the beneficiary wants.
  2. Purchase an insurance policy or trust through a funeral provider.
    If you purchase a policy or trust through a funeral home, you will have to specify a number of details such as the particular funeral home and the specific products and services you want. This plan will only cover those products and services directly provided by the funeral home, such as the casket, urn, and use of the funeral home chapel. Outside items, such as floral arrangements, clergy fees, and cemetery fees, would not be covered. With this plan, the funeral director acts as an insurance agent and receives a commission on the sale of the policy or a fee for setting up the trust. The beneficiary on the insurance policy and trust is the funeral home.
  3. Purchase a life insurance policy from an insurance company.
    You may use the benefit from any term or life insurance policy to pay for funeral expenses. If you need insurance money only to pay for funeral expenses, you can purchase funeral insurance from an insurance company in smaller amounts than what is typically offered in a term or whole life policy. At your death, the money passes automatically to the named beneficiary without having to go through probate. The money is intended to cover funeral expenses, but can be used in any way the beneficiary wants.

Can I pre-pay for my funeral?

Yes. Most funeral homes offer a pre-payment option, where you select the services and designate your choice of final arrangements.

Can a burial flag be replaced?

No. By law the VA can only issue one flag for a veteran’s funeral. If the burial flag is lost, destroyed, or stolen, you may be able to obtain assistance through local veterans’ groups or other community organizations.

Who usually reports the death of a person to the Social Security Administration (SSA)?

In most cases, the funeral director makes the report to the SSA, using the deceased’s Social Security number provided by the family. If you need to report a death or apply for benefits, call 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778).

Who is eligible to receive Social Security benefits when a person dies?

Survivors who may be eligible to receive Social Security benefits include:

  • A widow or widower age 60 or older (age 50 or older if disabled).
  • A widow or widower at any age who is caring for the deceased’s child under age 16 or disabled.
  • An unmarried child of the deceased who is younger than age 18 (or up to age 19 if he or she is a full-time student in an elementary or secondary school); or age 18 or older with a disability that began before age 22.
  • A stepchild, grandchild, step-grandchild or adopted child under certain circumstances.
  • Parents, age 62 or older, who were dependent on the deceased for at least half of their support.
  • A surviving divorced spouse under certain circumstances.

Read more about survivor benefits.

What forms or information do I need to apply for Social Security survivor’s benefits?

If you are not already receiving Social Security benefits, it is important to apply promptly because benefits may be paid from the time you apply, rather than the time the worker died. You can apply by telephone or at any Social Security office. You will need to provide the following information to apply for survivor’s benefits:

  • Proof of death—either from a funeral home or death certificate.
  • Your Social Security number.
  • The deceased worker’s Social Security number.
  • Your birth certificate.
  • Your marriage certificate (if applying as a widow or widower).
  • Your divorce papers (if applying as a divorced widow or widower).
  • Dependent children’s Social Security numbers and birth certificates.
  • Deceased workers W-2 forms or federal self-employment tax return for the most recent year.
  • The name of your bank and your account number so benefits can be deposited directly into your account.

Read more about eligibility and applying for survivor benefits.

Who is eligible to receive a Social Security lump-sum death payment?

A surviving spouse or child may receive a special lump-sum death payment of $255 if they meet certain requirements. If the surviving spouse was living in the same household with the worker when he or she died, the surviving spouse is eligible to receive the payment. If they were living apart, the surviving spouse can still receive the lump-sum if, during the month the worker died, he or she was already receiving benefits on the worker’s record; or became eligible for benefits upon the worker’s death.

If there is no surviving spouse, the lump-sum payment will go to the worker’s child or children, if during the month the worker died, the child/children was already receiving benefits on the worker’s record, or became eligible for benefits upon the worker’s death.

Read more about eligibility and applying for lump-sum death payment.

For more information, contact your local Social Security office or call 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778).

Does the government pay for embalming or cremation of a veteran or family member?

The Veterans Administration does not pay for specific funeral services, but it provides a burial allowance to the family of the deceased veteran. Read the VA burial benefits regulations or download a printable fact sheet.

How does a beneficiary file a death claim for Veterans’ Group Life (VGLI) Insurance?

To file a claim, download and complete form SGLV 8283, Claim for Death Benefits.
Fax it to 877-832-4943, or mail it to the following address with a copy of the death certificate:

Office of Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (OSGLI)
PO Box 70173
Philadelphia, PA 19176-9912

What happens to the burial flag of a veteran after the funeral service?

The flag is removed from the casket, folded properly, and given to the next of kin as a keepsake. If next of kin is not available, the flag may be given to a friend or donated upon request.

How can a burial flag be displayed?

A burial flag is displayed on the casket, but folded differently depending on whether the casket is open or closed. It should not be displayed outside, since the material is not suitable for outside weather conditions. The application for a flag includes instructions on how it should be displayed.

Who is eligible to receive the burial flag?

All veterans, except those dishonorably discharged, are entitled to a burial flag.

How can you apply for a burial flag for a U.S. veteran?

You can apply for a burial flag by completing VA Form 27-2008, Application for United States Flag for Burial Purposes. The funeral provider can assist you with obtaining a flag as well. U.S. Post Offices are the primary issuing point for burial flags; call and confirm with the post office in advance. Not all local post offices have burial flags on hand, but they should be able to direct you to the closest issuing post office. Regional VA offices can also help identify local issuing points.

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