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Posted on: March 10th, 2014 by nyfuneralc

complaints-img1At one time or another, all of us have found ourselves in a situation where we felt that we were not treated fairly, honestly or politely. We felt that those who were providing us a service or merchandise were not treating us as we were entitled to be treated.

It is always upsetting to find ourselves in this type of situation. It is even more difficult when it happens at a time when we are dealing with the loss of a loved one. We are under great emotional stress. Concerned that we may overreact, we decide not to react at all.

How do I effectively communicate to the funeral home that I am dissatisfied with the funeral service I have received?

Be calm and polite.

First, be calm and polite. Determine exactly what you are upset about and how you want it corrected. Communicate this clearly to the staff member at the funeral home who is handling or has handled your arrangements.

Give the staff member the opportunity to make the correction for you.

By being calm, polite and communicating clearly what you wish to have corrected, you give the staff member who handled your arrangements the opportunity to make the changes you are requesting.

Seek permission to consult the manager or the owner.

If the staff member you are dealing with tells you that he or she cannot make the change, simply say, “This is very important to me. Is it all right with you if I speak to the manager or the owner about this?”

Ask your staff member to introduce you to the owner or manager.

By asking the staff member’s permission, you are continuing to seek his or her help. You are not going around him or her. You are not being angry or belligerent. You are simply asking your staff member to introduce you to a person who has more authority.

In situations where you want a corrective action now, the best way to proceed is by being calm, polite but firm and making your wishes known to the person in charge.

By assuming that a simple miscommunication has taken place, you do not make the funeral director feel defensive. You are giving the funeral director the opportunity to serve you as you wish to be served.

Funeral directors are very service oriented professionals.

Funeral directors know how important every detail and request is to the family they are serving. They are trained to give special attention to even the smallest details. Let your funeral director know graciously if you are not satisfied so that the funeral home staff will have the opportunity to adjust anything that is not the way you requested it.

Always give the funeral service professional the opportunity to make necessary changes.

Your funeral director wants to give you the service you and your family request. As with any matter concerning many details, there is the possibility for miscommunication.

Communicate with your funeral director.

Let your funeral director know when he or she and the staff have done an outstanding job of serving you in your time of loss. Likewise let your funeral director know when he or she and the staff have not performed as you had a right to expect. The funeral director will value both types of communications.

What if my funeral director will not listen to me?

If you have tried to communicate with your funeral director in a calm, polite manner, and feel that he or she is not listening to you, then you should seek the mediation skills of the Funeral Ethics Association.
What is the Funeral Ethics Association?

The Funeral Ethics Association is dedicated to promoting the highest ethical standards in the practice of funeral service. Many funeral directors belong to the Funeral Ethics Association and subscribe to the Code of Ethics which the Funeral Ethics Association has established.

The Funeral Ethics Association strives to promote, to educate and to advance ethical standards in funeral service.

The Funeral Ethics Association serves as a mediator – your ombudsman – in cases where consumers wish to present situations where they feel they have not been properly served.

Consumers may send their questions or matters of concern to the Funeral Ethics Association. The Association will review them, make the funeral director aware of the situation and seek a solution which is mutually agreeable to both the consumer and the funeral director.


Posted on: March 10th, 2014 by nyfuneralc

by John Kroshus, Ph.D., FEA Guest Author
Interest in funeral ethics is increasing, as indicated by a recent survey in which funeral directors identified Ethical Conduct and Practice as the highest rated of the 404 task statements included in the study.¹ The ethical conduct and practice task statement rated a grand mean score of 4.88 on a five point scale, when considered for its importance, frequency and criticality. The mean scores contributing to the grand mean included 4.85 for importance, 4.94 for frequency and 4.85 for criticality. In short, this would indicate that responding funeral directors were of the opinion that ethical conduct and practice should be ingrained in funeral directors, with little or no room for lapses or liberties.

Why would funeral directors respond so strongly to this particular task statement?

I believe the reaction is the result of a very successful movement to increase awareness of ethical practice in the funeral service community. The American Board of Funeral Service Education requires programs and colleges of funeral service to teach ethics content. The creation of the FUNERAL ETHICS ASSOCIATION, and its publication Undertaking Ethics, is evidence of this movement. In addition, major publications in funeral service regularly devote space to the examination of ethics, and have even dedicated entire issues to the topic.²

Experts have expressed the view that few professionals offer opportunities to impact the lives of others in quite the same way as the funeral profession. Within funeral service lies the opportunity to create life-long memories for bereaved family members and friends. With that opportunity comes an obligation to practice in a manner that assures the memories are comforting and healing. Those in funeral service who recognize this notion also recognize that funeral directors need to lift each other to and hold each other to increasingly higher standards of practice.

Funeral service has been the target of a number of extremely negative stories in recent years. National news magazines in both the print and electronic media have blasted funeral practices by making sweeping accusations based on the transgressions, or alleged transgressions, of a few funeral directors. This type of media coverage has not only raised the ire of funeral directors, it has also raised ethics consciousness.

Those media reports, however, appear to be in conflict with a recent poll which indicated that the public ranks funeral directors eighth out of twenty-six professions with regard to being honest and ethical.³ None-the-less, when critics judge funeral directors, they do so by judging what they view to be the weakest among them.

The rift between independently owned funeral homes and acquisition companies has played a role in the increased attention to ethics within funeral service. The question of whether this attention to ethics has increased standards of practice is debatable, but there is no doubt that more attention is being paid to ethics. The exchange of rhetoric among funeral directors suggests that a significant number of independent funeral directors have the perception that their corporate colleagues practice in an unethical manner. And, some independently owned funeral homes cling to an ethical persona with the notion that doing so serves to separate them from what they believe to be the unethical practices of corporate funeral service. I think this type of activity is counterproductive and, in fact, may be a prelude to disaster, but it has raised ethics consciousness.

What is the role of education?

Funeral service educators ought to consider moving away from prescribing solutions for given situations, and start teaching students how to engage in critical thinking and problem solving. The application of ethical solutions to complex problems requires an ability to reason, analyze and assimilate. Rote learning and prescriptions for action have never been an effective way to prepare future funeral directors to deal with the types of problems that will confront them in funeral practice. Under-prepared graduates will have greater difficulty dealing with situations that are morally and ethically complex.

Stanley Mason, who has demonstrated his ability to think, reason and solve problems by inventing such things as the disposable diaper, air freshener and microwave cookware, expressed this thought by saying:

In school, we were taught to accept what teachers and other authority figures told us was “the truth.” As a result, we fell into the trap of thinking that there’s only one right answer to a question and that the person in authority knows what that answer is.4

I believe it is a mistake to teach funeral service students that problems and issues can be addressed by the application of predetermined responses which have been taught in school. It is impossible to anticipate the complexity of the problems that will challenge graduates out in funeral service practice and, therefore, impossible to anticipate predetermined outcomes. In the real world there may be several viable solutions for any given problem, and graduates who cannot assess circumstances and make judgments based on the situation will be sorrowfully under-prepared. If graduates lack problem solving skills, their recourse is limited to ignoring a problem, or attempting to make the problem fit the predetermined outcomes they were given in school. Funeral service graduates must be armed with the skills necessary to identify problems, analyze them in a logical way and develop options for their ethical resolution.

1. Kroshus, John. “Building Funeral Service Curriculum with Task Analysis: The University of Minnesota Project.” The Director, Volume LXX, Number 4, April 1998, 50-56.
2. See the July 1997 issue of The Director which was devoted entirely to Ethics.
3. “Gallup Poll Ranks Funeral Directors In Top Ten,” Funeral Monitor, May 4, 1998, 5.
4. Bottom Line/Personal. “Knowitall,” Volume 19, Number 11, June 1998, 9.

FEA thanks Mr. Kroshus, Ph.D., Director of the Program of Mortuary Science at the University of Minnesota, for his contribution.

Tips to Choose a Cremation Service

Posted on: March 10th, 2014 by nyfuneralc No Comments

Moving through the feelings of shock, loss and grief to plan your loved one’s final arrangements may seem like a formidable task but it’s possible with help and support. If you can, make sure you have someone in your corner to rely on during this tough time.

If you’re in the midst of planning a funeral service, you may have decided that cremation is a better option that a traditional burial. Some benefits of cremation include that the costs can be significantly cheaper, you have the choice to take up less space in a cemetery and if keeping the remains of your loved close to you is important, you are able to keep them at your home.

If you have decided to have a funeral service involving cremation, there are resources available to help you select a provider that best fits your needs. Though it may feel like cost shouldn’t be a factor, experts say it is definitely best to consider the most reasonably-priced options to lay your loved one to rest. With cost in mind, you’ll want to make sure that you are asking the right questions when you select someone to handle the arrangements.

First, let’s start off with what a cremation service entails. You can have a direct cremation, where the remains are cremated shortly after death and arrangements are either made for burial or entombment at a later date, the family keeps the remains in an urn or other approved container or the family takes the ashes to scatter them at a favorite or significant location of the deceased. If you select cremation but you still want to have a funeral or memorial service, you can make arrangements to cremate the body after the service as well or have the remains taken care of before you schedule the service.

Below are some tips to choose the best facility to perform the cremation and handle the services, should you choose to have one.

Think About Which Service You Want

The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) says that funeral service professionals are battling many preconceived notions about the options available for cremation. Many people may believe that if you cremate the remains, you have to do it right away and don’t allow friends and family the option to see the body or have a service. The reality is, however, that you can still have a traditional service celebrating the life of your loved one even if you opt out of a burial.

It helps to already know what you want as you look for a cremation provider so that you can consider costs early. National Funeral Council.Org gives a comprehensive list of the options available to you related to cremation, which includes:

  • Just Cremation (also called simple or direct cremation) – No viewing or services prior to or after cremation. This service is the simplest of all of the cremation options. Consider whether you will have a lot of friends and family who would want to say goodbye. If the family and friends pool is relatively small, you may want to go with a direct cremation. Remember that having a memorial service doesn’t have to be a formal affair; you can always host something small at someone’s home later.
  • Cremation and Memorial Service – Memorial service may or may not be held at the cremation provider’s facility. Should you decide to go with a memorial service, you do have the option of hosting the event at the funeral home. Keep in mind that hosting the memorial service will incur more costs with the funeral home or whatever facility you decide to use.
  • Viewing with Cremation to Follow – A viewing or wake (private or public) with cremation to follow. You will have to think about costs and arrangements for transporting the remains from the viewing or wake to the crematory or funeral home.
  • Viewing, Cremation, Memorial – A viewing or wake (private or public) with cremation and a memorial service to follow. This option includes many of the elements of a traditional funeral. There is a viewing of the remains, the remains are transported to the crematory or funeral home and then there is a memorial service that may consist of clergy officiating, song selections and other tributes.
  • Viewing, Funeral Service, Cremation – A viewing or wake (private or public), a funeral service with the body present and cremation to follow. Burial or scattering the cremated remains may follow the next day. This option is essentially a traditional full-service funeral, only you handle the remains after the viewing and funeral services are over.

For many people, having a place to visit their loved one is important. If that is true for you, choosing a place to scatter the ashes or burying them is something you may want to consider.

Remember that in New York State, only a licensed funeral director can make arrangements for the care, moving and preparation of the remains for cremation, followed by the necessary preparations to move the body to the crematory. The funeral director also files the death certificate and obtains the cremation permit, says the Division of Cemeteries website.

Consider Whether a Crematory or Funeral Home is Best

Let’s start with some basic definitions. A crematory is simply the facility that has the equipment to cremate a person’s remains. Sometimes the crematory is only able to perform the cremation, but in other cases, the facility also has rooms available for small viewings or memorial services. A funeral home, which is probably most familiar to you, is a facility that is operated by a licensed funeral director and can facilitate the details most commonly associated with a full-service funeral, including caskets, flowers, transportation to the burial site, etc. Sometimes a funeral home doesn’t have a crematory on site, so you may end up working with both types of facilities as you plan your service.

All crematories in New York are regulated by the state, according to the Division of Cemeteries. Of the 47 active crematories, 44 are operated by nonprofit organization, two are operated by municipalities and one is run by a religious organization.

Whether you go with a crematory or funeral home will depend on the type of service you choose. If you’re going with a traditional funeral, a funeral home can probably best handle all of the details surrounding the arrangements. If you are doing a direct cremation and will be holding the memorial service at a later date, you can work with a licensed funeral director to handle the relationship between you and the crematory.

Check the Prices

We can’t stress enough that cost should very much be a factor in how you choose your cremation service. Prices can vary widely so definitely call around or do some research online to help you learn what price range is comfortable for you. Federal laws stipulate that funeral homes must have a price list available to you when you request it, whether by phone or in person.

The cost of embalming is definitely one of the most costly parts of planning any funeral service. In New York, embalming is not required by state law, but the facility you choose may require it if you are planning a memorial or funeral service where your loved one will be on display for viewing.

New York law also doesn’t require that you purchase a casket, which can be another pricey part of funeral planning. However, you must purchase or rent a container that shields the remains from public view while they are being transported. New York regulations state the remains must be “delivered to the crematory in a leak-proof, rigid combustible container that completely encloses the human remains,” the Division of Cemeteries explains. With those standards in mind, be sure to ask about containers to transport the remains besides coffins.

Check the Reviews, On and Offline

Online reviews and Internet searches is the 21st century word-of-mouth. There is no reason not to know about whether the facility of your choosing is up to code on industry standards, has had any brushes with the law or has any sort of trouble. The media can be a wonderful source for investigations or issues so pay attention to any news stories about the facility you’re considering.

If anything seems doesn’t seem right or legal, move on to the next facility. It’s definitely worth your peace of mind to pursue a competent, trustworthy service that will be able to fulfill its duties.

The Bottom Line

Keep in mind that choosing cremation doesn’t mean that your loved one’s final arrangements can’t have a personal touch that reflects his or her personality. The truth is that you can make the service before or after the cremation as unique as your loved one was. When you are planning the service — no matter what you choose — you can personalize with special tributes, photographs, music or displays. You have the options to still make the celebration a lasting way to say goodbye.


How To Preplan Your Funeral

Posted on: March 10th, 2014 by nyfuneralc

If you’re thinking about planning a funeral and the person who will be laid to rest is yourself, congratulations. That may sound a bit strange, but you should know you are in the minority. You’re ahead of 75 percent of the population that has to plan funerals completely unprepared, probably full of emotions and possibly with the extra cash to spend on arrangements that become quite expensive.

Experts recommend pre-planning and you may want to think about pre-paying, too, although pre-paying comes with its own set of benefits and risks. But keep in mind that you can pre-plan without pre-paying. Experts agree that pre-planning is the best way to let your loved ones know what you want done and offer them peace of mind by removing the stress of having to make arrangements while they are grieving. Some even call pre-planning your funeral “a final act of love,” though it may be unpleasant to plan for, or even think about, our own deaths.

How to Pre-Plan

So you first thought may be: Planning my own funeral? That’s bizarre. No one wants to consider their own mortality, right? But stop and think about it: who knows what you would want better than you? Here are a few of the steps you should take to begin.

  1. Start the conversation. Contact funeral homes in your area and talk to a funeral director about the first steps. You probably will have to think about such options as do you want a full, traditional funeral? Do you consider cremation a viable option? Does your family already have a vault or a crypt?
  2. Write your plans down. Do you have a favorite song that you feel will stand the test of the time, that you would want played or sung for you no matter what? Include it in your plan. Have a favorite flower? Write it down. Would you rather spare people the expense of sitting in a somber funeral home and you want your service outside, weather permitting? Make sure you make a note of that. If there is anything that would be important to you, be sure that you include it. Don’t assume that you would have time to communicate those last details.
  3. Visit the final resting place. If you choose to have a burial, you may want to take a look at the plot. You may want to request that the plot is in the shade of a huge weeping willow or next to a peaceful pond. You may request that your headstone have some great quote or script. Then again, you could just want to be cremated and have your ashes scattered across the highway because you loved to drive. The point is that you make a choice about what you want — and make it an informed choice.
  4. Be reasonable. Depending on whether you are actually going to begin to pay on your funeral, you have to decide if it is fair to request the priciest casket, a horse and carriage, the dove released for every year of your life and the gold-gilded wreaths. Remember that the responsibility of executing your wishes — no matter how simple or extravagant – is with the ones who are left behind. It would be a great gift if you could think about a way to make it a little easier on them, as they will already be dealing with a terrible loss.
  5. Make copies of your wishes. Identify those closest to you whom you trust to carry out your final wishes. Give a copy to your attorney as well, the Federal Trade Commission advises.
  6. Consider revisions of your plans every few years. You can revise and update plans as your thoughts you change or you learn more about burial/entombment/interment processes that you didn’t know. For example, green funerals are becoming more popular. Options that are pretty out-of-the-box as compared to today’s standards — think about your remains being made into a reef to sit at the bottom of the sea or perhaps being blasted into outer space — could become more common and turn into something that catches your attention as time goes on.

If You Pre-Pay

Many people use the term “prepay” and “preplan” interchangeably, but the reality is that you can plan your funeral service without paying a cent. However, there are some benefits to paying on the service. The biggest benefit is probably that you could potentially lock in today’s prices on goods and services, which could be good news for your loved ones. Your family and friends will not only potentially not have to worry about planning your service; they also may not have to pay for the entire thing and any costs they do incur would be frozen at 2014 prices, instead of dealing with the inflation of rates 80 years from now.

Just as if you were pricing the options of someone else’s final service, you will want to reach out to multiple funeral homes to compare prices. A funeral home’s General Price List, which they are required by law to give you, can help you determine which facility you may want to go with.

Did you know that there is a Bill of Rights from that National Funeral Directors Association that details the guarantees that you are afforded as a consumer? Those rights state that a lawful and ethical funeral home will:

  1. Provide you a full and complete list of services offered and their rates prior to you selecting services.
  2. Provide a full written statement of your choices, at rate/price you chose, after you make your selection.
  3. Provide a preneed contract depicting your rights and obligations in plain language.
  4. Provide a guarantee to substitute goods/services of equal or greater value should your selections become unavailable at the time of need.
  5. Explain in the your contract where the geographical areas of the funeral home’s service are and how you would go about moving a preneed contract to another funeral home if necessary (for example, if you relocated or if death occurred outside the service area of the funeral home)
  6. Explain in your contract where and how much of the money you pay will be deposited until the funeral.
  7. Explain in the contract the person responsible for paying any taxes on income or interest created by preneed funds that have been invested.
  8. Tell you whether prices of goods and services are locked in, or guaranteed, by the funeral home — or what the funeral home will guarantee. If additional amounts are due at the funeral, the contract should stipulate who is responsible for paying them.
  9. Explain in the contract how and the circumstances required for you to cancel the contract and how much of your money will be refunded.

Always keep your family and your attorney informed of any contract you sign or agreement that you enter into, especially if they are the ones who will actually be liable for executing your plans. The Federal Trade Commission also warns if your family doesn’t know that you have prepaid the costs, they could end up paying for the same arrangements — which is a pretty good point to note.

Drawbacks to Prepaying

There are some risks associated with prepaying for your funeral. The most obvious is that the funeral home where you may the arrangements may no longer be in business or they may change ownership, the Federal Trade Commission warns. This is why your preneed contract is so important.

Prices also may go up so that the funeral you thought you were paying on actually becomes more of a hardship for your loved ones. Again, this is where the need for the contract comes in. Make sure that it is spelled out, in plain language, what the funeral home is guaranteeing you for your money. Note that while you can prepay for certain expenses like the death certificate, cemetery, costs, etc., many funeral homes don’t want to include them because they have no control over these costs. So consider that you could be prepaying for a funeral where your loved ones are still responsible for those extra costs. But the Department of Health does mention that you may negotiate separately with the cemetery, crematory or monument dealer.

It’s always a good idea to know your state laws if you decide to prepay as well. New York Department of Health notes that the state “gives New Yorkers some of the strongest protection in the country,” but does not provide absolute protection.

As with any financial transaction, there are benefits and drawbacks to the way you decide to handle pre-paying for your own funeral. But know that at least thinking about what you want for your final arrangements, even informally, can give your loved ones the peace of mind that they know — without a doubt — that you would be pleased with your final goodbye.


Guide to Planning a Funeral

Posted on: March 10th, 2014 by nyfuneralc

It’s a pretty simple concept that if you want any event to go well, you plan in advance. Well, sometimes it is just not possible to plan in advance. Statistics from the National Funeral Directors Association show that only 25 percent of U.S. funerals are pre-planned, meaning that the vast majority of people who are putting together a funeral service are vastly unprepared. When you unexpectedly lose a loved one, planning a funeral becomes a responsibility that needs to happen fairly quickly.

But that doesn’t mean that some planning isn’t possible. There are plenty of resources for you to plan a thoughtful service recognizing the life and properly mourning the loss of your beloved. has a fantastic comprehensive list of actions to take after a loved one dies. We’ve incorporated some of that list below for you to consider.

For General Preparation

  • Notify authorities of the death if it has occurred outside a hospital, hospice, or nursing home
  • Assemble personal information for the death certificate and obituary
  • Notify family and friends – You have to decide what’s the best way to let people know that your loved one haspassed on. Sometimes calling may be appropriate for those closest. In thisage, sometimes social media surpasses us, so you may have to instruct people not to post of your loved one’s passing on outlets such as Facebook and Twitter without your permission.
  • Locate and read the last Will and Testament
  • Take care of financial needs as suggested as the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs.
    • Locate the family’s important papers, including wills, life insurance policies and stock certificates.
    • Call employee benefits office with deceased’s personal information
    • Notify Medicare.
    • You can get death certificates, and request multiple copies of it, by calling the NYC Department of Health (212) 788-4250, though your funeral director can also assist you with this.
    • Notify Social Security by calling (800) 772-1213.
    • Investigate whether you can get emergency cash before insurance claims are paid.
    • If your loved one served in the U.S. military, call the Veterans Administration at (800) 827-1000.
    • Avoid spending large sums of money while you’re in an emotional state. Consider taking a friend along with you during your funeral planning.
    • Contact a financial counselor.
  • Choose a charity for donation in lieu of flowers (if requested).
  • Gather photos and memorabilia for display.
  • Gather cemetery information such as deed to the plot and receipt of purchase.

Funeral Preparation

  • Decide what kind of service you will have. The services can include variations of the services below.
    • Traditional funeral with burial
    • Traditional funeral with cremation
    • Direct burial (no viewing or funeral service)
    • Direct cremation (no viewing or funeral service)
    • Memorial service with burial
    • Memorial service with cremation
  • Determine who will pay the costs of the service.
  • Select a funeral director.
    • In New York, state law says you must have a funeral director to handle all of the arrangements of preparing and transporting your loved one’s remains for cremation or burial and filing the death certificate. No matter what your religion or culture is, be prepared to seek out the assistance of a funeral director.
  • Select your funeral home.
    • Be sure to shop around and check various prices for the services you have selected. By federal law, the funeral home must provide you with a general price list.
    • Have an idea of the clothing and jewelry you want yourloved one to wear, which can include special pins for membership and various associations or other accessories that may have been special to them.
  • Select clergy.
  • Select speakers for the eulogy.
  • Select pallbearers (typically 4-6).
  • Consider catering food/options for after the funeral procession.

There are several details of funeral planning that can make packages very costly. Here are some of the costs associated with purchasing caskets on

Metal Caskets

Metal caskets can range from $1,200 to more than $10,000. Experts say the breakdown includes standard/carbon steel caskets that range from $1,200 to $2,500. A stainless steel casket will range from $3,000 to $10,000-plus. A copper casket will also range from $3,000 to $10,000-plus and a bronze casket is the most expensive, clocking from $3,000 to $10,000-plus.

Wood Caskets

Experts say wood caskets can often be hand-crafted and can vary in selection, and pricing will vary depending on where the wood came from and the quality of the wood. Common hardwoods include poplar, cottonwood and pine and can range from $900 to $2,700. Standard hardwoods include oak, maple and cherry and can cost from $2,200 to $4,500. Premium hardwoods include walnut and mahogany, which can run from $5,000 to $10,000.

Burial Vault/Liner

A burial vault or liner is not required by law but they are often required by cemeteries. To help offset the cost of an average vault, which runs about $1,195, purchase a liner instead which runs from $400 to $800.

Personalizing Your Funeral Service

Once you have gotten through the basic checklist, you should be on track to make the service more unique and personal to honor your loved one. There are several ways that you can either follow tradition or create a different kind of experience.

  • Music – Was there a particular kind of music that your loved one liked to listen to? Consider playing some of their favorite tunes or having musicians come to the service to sing or play live.
  • Photographs/slideshows – Pictures really can be worth a thousand words. If your friend/family loved to travel and have fun and have the photos to prove it, why not shows those memories in a short movie? Make sure the funeral home has a projector and the audio/video equipment to accommodate the display.
  • Presentations from family/friends. – Funerals can often be used as a celebration of a person’s life by those who loved them the most. There may be people who would like to say a poem, read a religious scripture or sing a song as a tribute. Other tributes can include displaying a work of art or giving some sort of award posthumously.
  • Resolutions/Presentations from organizations – If a person was active in the community or their church, a representative from those organizations may want to read a resolution honoring the person. The representative may also want to present the family with a certificate or written copy of the resolution. Certain membership organizations, professional clubs, sororities, fraternal organizations also have ceremonies they reserve for their deceased members. You may want to contact them to see if there are any presentations that they would like to include on the program.

Memorial Service/Funeral Etiquette

There are many different kinds of funeral services based on different cultures, religions and faith. If you are having a service for someone where a person of another faith, culture of religion may be invited, consider that the person may abstain from certain rites and traditions and do not take it as an offense. If a person of a different faith or culture is for some reason unable to attend a funeral due to his or her beliefs, be sure to let the person know if you are having a viewing where they can come, pay their respects and sign the guestbook.

You may be in a bit of a fog during the planning, but you still have to get through the service. There isn’t necessarily a “right” way to act at a funeral, especially if you are grieving. But if you feel like you’re not prepared to greet or interact with people at the service, or the funeral itself, gives several helpful tips:


  • Don’t worry too much about what to wear (people will be there to support you, not to worry about what you are wearing) but make sure that your clothing is clean, appropriate and comfortable.
  • The first two rows of seats or pews are typically reserved for immediate family so that is where you should sit.
  • Be prepared to greet people who come to the funeral as they come in and respond to condolences, handshakes and hugs. You don’t have to have a long conversation, but thanking them for coming is appropriate.
  • If someone says something insensitive or otherwise acts inappropriately, Everplans suggests that you tell the person you would rather not discuss the issue, thank them and walk away.
  • Write thank you notes to everyone who signed the guestbook at the service. You may be able to coordinate this through the funeral home.

Planning funerals can be a bit overwhelming and there is no doubt that it can be an emotionally draining time. However, staying calm and taking advantage of resources as you plan can make all the difference — resulting in a beautiful service that is as memorable as the person’s life you are celebrating.


How To Plan A Funeral On A Budget

Posted on: March 10th, 2014 by nyfuneralc

Statistics show that about 75 percent are unprepared to plan a funeral when a loved one suddenly dies. The term unprepared can cover a multitude of feelings that come along with facing death: shock, grief, hopelessness, anger, helplessness — pretty much the proverbial gamut of emotions. But what this also means is that many people aren’t financially prepared to suddenly be responsible for thousands of dollars to pay for a funeral.

If you are fortunate, your loved one had some sort of life insurance that will help offset the inevitable expenses to lay them to rest. But for those who didn’t have life insurance or maybe don’t have a lot of it, it’s better to try to work through the emotions to seek a cost-effective way to celebrate the life of your beloved.

The average cost of a funeral is about $6,000. First, let’s address the areas are not optional when planning a funeral service or (even simply just arrangements to lay a person to rest even without a full funeral):

  • Engaging a Licensed Funeral Director

    In New York, a Licensed Funeral Director must handle all of the arrangements of preparing the remains for burial or cremation, filing the death certificate, transporting the body for cremation or burial, securing a cremation permit and acting as a liaison between you and the cemetery, crematory or crypt. Essentially, the funeral director is your representative in selecting and planning a memorable service so it should be someone you are comfortable with. To begin looking for a licensed director, start with the National Funeral Directors Association directory, where you can search for professional and funeral homes near you.
    Average cost: $1,500

  • Filing a Death Certificate

    You can file the death certificate through the funeral home and they cannot charge you additional fees. They will file the certificate with the registrar of Vital Records in the town where death occurred; so don’t be confused if the filing doesn’t happen where your loved one actually lived. You should be prepared to obtain more than one copy for various agencies that may need a copy for their own records.
    Average cost: The fee for a death certificate is $15 in New York City and $10 (or less) in the rest of New York State, according to the State Department of Health.

  • Purchasing and Transporting a Burial Container

    Though you may opt out of the more pricey, full-service traditional funeral, state law in New York says that you have to have some sort of leak-proof, combustible container to transport the remains to a crematory for direct cremation or a cemetery for direct burial (we’ll talk more about your funeral service options in a bit). The bottom line is the law indicates that you must have approved encasing when you are having the remains moved and that — plus transportation itself — will incur a cost.
    Average cost: Prices can run from a basic container at $900 to the average casket at $2,300.

  • Embalming/Topical Disinfectant

    Contrary to popular belief, embalming is not required by state law; however, a funeral home may require it, depending on the services chosen. If embalming is not required because you have decided not to have a viewing with an open casket, for example, you may be required to purchase only topical disinfectant instead.
    Average cost: Embalming can run about $500 while just topical disinfectant may be as low as $195.

  • Burial/Cremation/Other Means of Disposition

    Whether you decide on a burial, cremation or even green burials, there will be some sort of cost incurred to take care of your loved one’s remains. But how you choose to handle that process could make the difference between spending $3,000 and $10,000-plus.

Where You Can Save Money

The key to saving money when planning for a funeral is knowing where you can actually cut costs without sacrificing the quality of the service or respect that you have for your loved one. Looking for ways to have a cost-effective service doesn’t take away from the care and consideration that you have to make the service a memorable one.

Often, people are so consumed with grief that they don’t question the costs for funerals or believe that many elements are required when either they aren’t essential at all or there is a cheaper alternative available. Take a look at alternative costs that will help you save in the long run.

  • Check Multiple Funeral Homes

    Just like when you’re purchasing any other big-ticket item, you don’t go with the first offer you see. Planning a funeral obviously is a more sensitive time, but the rules still apply. Experts say that many people overpay for funerals simply because they didn’t seek other options.Prices for the exact same service can vary greatly depending on where you go. Have a figure in mind before you start your research. If you absolutely decide that you will not spend more than $1,000 for a coffin, then stick with that price and find either a funeral home or other retailer that will satisfy that requirement.

  • Direct Burial/Direct Cremation vs. Traditional Funeral

    Burying or cremating the remains shortly after death can save the costs of storage, embalming and other expenses that come with keeping the remains longer and preparing them for services such as viewing/wake and an open casket during a funeral. It also saves on having to transport the remains from the venue of the funeral to the cemetery for burial or interment and buying a headstone, which can cost you another $1,500.
    According to officials, the average cost for cremation is $3,200, less than half the average cost of a traditional funeral.

  • Using Free Venue or Home for Memorial Service

    If you choose to hold a memorial service, you have options other than renting out a funeral home or church for a funeral where you have to satisfy certain costly requirements to have the remains on display, i.e. if you have an open casket viewing. Those costs will include provisions for the remains to be embalmed, dressed and transported, buried and/or interred.

    Consider less formal places that held a special meaning for your loved one, maybe a park, a community center or someone’s home. You may be able to save about $500, the average cost of using a funeral home.

  • Shop Around for Urns/Caskets

    The price of a casket can be a huge expense. If you have decided on cremation, you are not required by law to purchase a casket. All you have to do is request a container that satisfies state law, which can be as simple as a cardboard container provided by the crematory. Should you decide to keep the ashes versus scattering the remains, you can find relatively inexpensive urns. If you are having a funeral service and a cremation, consider renting a casket. Finally, if you are having a full burial, you don’t have to buy the most expensive coffin on the list (and demand to see the full list). Simple wood coffins can be as inexpensive as $900 — much less than $10,000 maple coffins.

  • Using a Cemetery That Does Not Require a Burial Vault/Grave Liner

    Another area where what seems like small things can add up is purchasing a vault or grave liner. This is not required by law, but many cemeteries require them. You can either search for a cemetery that does not require it or, if you have to choose between the two, go with a grave liner, which costs less. Most aregoing to cost between $700 and $1000, while burial vaults cost between $900 and $7,000, but can even be as high as $13,000.

  • Consider a “Green” Funeral

    Another concept that is gaining in popularity is a “green” funeral, which reportedly costs a lot less than the average $6,000 funeral. Green funerals, which eliminate embalming, cremation, or burying is better for the environment because remains don’t decompose in the ground threatening water sources and crematories don’t fill the air with hot, toxic gas.

You can find many options to go green but this idea may take a bit more research because there isn’t as much access to these choices as there is to more traditional methods. However, there are some intriguing ideas out there. From natural burials — which occur in one of the handful of cemeteries nationwide that will accept remains simply shrouded as opposed to embalmed — to eco-friendly caskets, experts predict more green funerals to increase.

Always remember that the most important thing about any funeral service is honoring the memory of the person who is no longer with us. When was the last time you heard, “Oh, wow, look at that casket!” at a funeral? You haven’t because the focus is on support that people in mourning are offering each other. You have options to plan a memorable service without paying for it for years to come.


How to Choose A Good Funeral Home

Posted on: March 10th, 2014 by nyfuneralc

The concept of choosing a good funeral home may seem like a bit of an oxymoron. After all, how can you choose anything good during such a bad time in your life? If you’re planning a funeral, it’s because you have recently lost a loved one. However, choosing a not-so-good funeral home to plan your traditional funeral service to say goodbye can cause additional stress and pain. When you look at it that way, it becomes very important to consider tips that can assist you in choosing a good, trustworthy funeral home to handle the final arrangements with care and dignity.

The most common funeral service is also called traditional or a full-service funeral. Because many of us don’t plan funerals every day, we will go through the entire process of selecting a funeral home near you that can offer the best service when you need it the most.

The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) says that it is very important to be comfortable with the funeral home you choose, particularly the funeral director. New York State Law stipulates that care, moving, burial and cremation arrangements can only be provided by licensed funeral directors. The funeral director is also responsible for filing the death certificate, corresponding with the cemetery/crematory and moving the remains to the cemetery or crematory.

If you are going to go with a traditional funeral service, you will most likely work with the funeral home to handle arrangements that will include three elements: the viewing (also called a visitation or a wake), the funeral and the burial. The details of the funeral can vary depending on religion and culture.

But much of the process of selecting a good — or trustworthy — funeral home depends on you. It depends on the questions you ask, no matter how uncomfortable they may be.

Create a Budget and a Timeframe

It may seem impossible put together a budget for a funeral if you have no idea what to expect. However, it’s good to have a dollar amount in mind for your bottom line, especially if you have an idea of what financial assistance may be available to you from resources such as life insurance or pensions.

The costs associated with a traditional funeral would typically include:

  • Basic services fee
  • Remains prepared for viewing
  • Casket or burial container
  • Clergy or celebrant to officiate the service
  • Rental of facility for service
  • Transportation of remains to grave site or crematory
  • Cost of vehicles for family transport if they don’t have access to personal vehicles

You also may want to create a loose timeframe of when you want the service to be held. Some will have the funeral within a week, but others may stretch out the time a bit if they are waiting for other friends and family to come in from out of town. A funeral home that can schedule the arrangements quickly and efficiently will probably be in your best interest.

Shop Around First

According to, the number one reason Americans overpay for funeral services is because they do not investigate more than one facility. Forbes gives resources such as Red Book Funeral Directory or Yellow Pages to use to find funeral homes in your area. See if you can find facilities that offer services based on the budget created.

Do not feel pressured to choose a funeral home just because a family member or friend told you to use the facility. It is great to receive advice during such a tough time, but remember that you are ultimately the one to make the decision, so your mind must be at ease before you commit to a facility.

When you search for funeral homes near you online or in a phone book, ask basic questions about costs. Because you know that you want a traditional funeral, you also know that you will need services such as preparation of the body for viewing, costs of caskets and prices associated with burial and cremation. By law, funeral homes must provide that information if you request it in phone or in person.

When you’re making a list of funeral homes to visit, consider the questions: How long have they have been in business? What is their reputation in the community? Check online reviews and even run a quick Internet search and browse to see if the funeral home has been a part of any recent, or even not-so-recent scandals. Unfortunately, there are some unsavory characters that will take advantages of families for money, so be careful.

Schedule the Arrangement Conference and Be Aware of Your Surroundings

The DCA defines the arrangement conference as the meeting between you and the funeral director where you choose the merchandise and service. If you haven’t already seen it, this is where you would make the request for a general services list, which should cover all of the basic arrangements fees and the casket price list.

Another thing to consider: find another person whom you can trust to take with you to the funeral home for the arrangement conference. Experts suggest having someone accompany you who may be less attached to your loved one who can stay calm during the appointment, help you remain calm and ask questions that you did not think to ask.

Also, when you’re meeting with the funeral director, don’t just listen to the prices or the details of services. Make a note of your surroundings. Is everything neat? Is the staff courteous and professional? Is there a clear procedure and documentation that gives you confidence in the funeral director’s ability to handle your loved one’s arrangements?

Pay Attention to the Details

You probably have an idea of how many people may want to attend your loved one’s final services to pay their respects. Does the funeral home seem to have the space to accommodate a large viewing? Do the rooms have enough chairs? If the facility has varying sizes of rooms, you should be able to take a look at rooms that are different sizes to determine what will work best for the service you have in mind.

Pay attention to things such as parking. Is there a parking lot or street parking? If it’s during the winter season, check out the options for people to get to the door with a minimal amount of trudging through snow and slush.

For the funeral service itself, if you choose to use the funeral home, make sure that their technology, audio and video options fit your needs. Many services are now incorporating technology, for example pictures made into a home movie or a music video of happy memories. If this is something you want at your service, you need to talk to the funeral home about whether they have a screen for slideshow presentations or what kind of speaker setup they have to pipe in music. You’ll also want to pay attention to how much traffic the funeral home has already and whether it seems like it may be too noisy or too crowded to suit your service.

Ask questions, though they may seem strange. For example, some funeral homes have a requirement that all bodies are embalmed but for those that don’t, ask if there is a refrigerated room available. If the service is within a few days, you may be able to save on embalming costs.

If a Funeral Home Director Does Any of These Things…Leave

Federal laws protect consumers from abuse by funeral home staff as legislators have recognized that you are in a vulnerable state. The New York Department of Health lists these illegal actions as follows:

  • Pressuring you to purchasespecific services or merchandise.
  • Refusing to give a receipt.
  • Refusing to provide a price list or itemized statement.
  • Allows someone other than a licensed funeral director make arrangements, prepare the deceased or supervise the burial.
  • Misrepresenting funeral directing laws.

Funeral home directors also should not criticize your choices or otherwise make you feel uncomfortable about your selections. Be wary of anyone who promises “protective” caskets with a rubber gasket. According to reports Reader’s Digest, these gaskets do not stop decomposition and can actually cause the casket to explode because they trap moisture and gases.

Don’t Make a Hasty Decision

It may seem like an emergency and a process that you just want to be over. You may feel like once the funeral is planned and over, you can move forward with the actual grieving process and you want to have that final step to say goodbye. It is also true that when you have just lost a loved one, time is of the essence for getting the service in order.

But you do have some time to consider the best options. Remember that you have the right to certain information and procedures to decide which funeral home inspires the most confidence to plan a memorable, appropriate service.


Different Types of Services for Funerals in New York

Posted on: March 10th, 2014 by nyfuneralc

Below is a guide to the different types of funeral services, the rules that apply to them in New York State and the costs they may incur. Keep in mind that with any service, you will have to have some costs associated with filing the death certificate and disposing of your loved one’s remains.

Traditional or Full-Service Funeral

The traditional funeral service may be the most expensive and is also the most common. This service may have a viewing or wake where friends and loved ones are encouraged to greet the family and give their condolences. Typically at a traditional funeral service, the remains of the deceased are available for viewing. The formal service may be presided over by a clergy member and may include remarks from family or friends and song selections followed by the burial or interment at a cemetery.

The reason why the traditional service is the most expensive is because you have to consider the funeral home’s basic service fees, according to the Federal Trade Commission, which can include embalming and dressing the body, purchase of a coffin, creating and printing the obituary, rental of the funeral home or church for the service, the use of a hearse and the use of vehicles for transportation of the family if they do not have their own vehicles at their disposal. Further costs to consider include whether you will have to purchase a cemetery plot or crypt for burial or interment of the remains.

Direct Burial

A direct burial is when the remains are buried shortly after death. Costs are lower with this option because there is no embalming or dressing of the body for a viewing or funeral or other costs associated with planning a full service. You would still need to purchase transportation to the cemetery, a burial container for the remains and a plot or crypt at the cemetery and other basic services from the funeral home, the Federal Trade Commission says. There is also an option to have a graveside service for the family, which would be another additional cost paid to the funeral home.

Direct Cremation

Much like the direct burial, the remains are taken to a crematory shortly after death. As with the direct burial, costs are lower than the traditional full-service funeral because again, you do not have to pay for embalming the body, dressing and a coffin for viewing or a wake. You will still incur the costs of transporting the body to the crematory and a fee for the cremation services but you don’t have to place or bury them in a cemetery. You can either keep the remains and purchase a container, such as an urn, to keep them at your home or the home of a family member, or you can scatter the remains at a favorite place or a location that was significant to your loved one.

Memorial Service

A memorial service may closely resemble the format of a funeral, except there is no body for viewing. You and your family may opt to have a memorial service that can take place some time after a direct burial or a direct cremation. If the remains are cremated and are kept by the family, they can be present at the memorial service or you may choose to display a nice photo of them instead.

With a memorial service, you can cut down on many of the costs associated with a traditional full-service funeral, including renting space at a funeral home or church or paying for a venue altogether. You can virtually hold a memorial service anywhere, at someone’s home, a community center, etc. with a less formal program. You may be able to incorporate more of a celebratory feel than a somber event, especially if your loved one enjoyed a certain activity that you can feature or include. Some memorial services have a slide show of photos depicting the person’s life and featuring happy memories.

Military Funeral

If your loved one was a member of the United States Armed Forces, he or she is entitled to a free burial in a national cemetery and a grave marker from the Department of Defense, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC further notes, “This eligibility also extends to some civilians who have provided military-related service and some Public Health Service personnel. Spouses and dependent children also are entitled to a lot and marker when buried in a national cemetery.”

Upon the family’s request, if he or she is eligible, your loved one also can receive the folding and presenting of the United States flag and the playing of Taps. Log on to the Military Honors page of the National Cemetery Administration website. To reach a regional Veterans Affairs office for more information, you may also call 1-800-827-1000.

The federal government does not charge for some of the basic costs that funeral homes would charge such as opening or closing the grave, for a vault or liner of the casket or for setting the marker in the national cemetery, though the family is usually responsible for other expenses.

In New York, the open national cemeteries include:

  • Bath National Cemetery
  • Calverton National Cemetery
  • Long Island National Cemetery
  • Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery
  • Woodlawn National Cemetery

Both Albany Rural Cemetery Soldiers’ Lot and Cypress Hill National Cemetery are closed, the National Cemetery Administration website says.

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Posted on: March 10th, 2014 by nyfuneralc No Comments

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