FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Do you have a question regarding funerals? Let’s see if we can help you here first:
Q: Do I need a funeral director?
In New York State, a licensed funeral director is required to make funeral arrangements and make the final disposition of the body. In addition to providing for the final disposition of human remains, the funeral director is a caregiver, listener and coordinator. As a caregiver, the funeral director helps the survivors make choices regarding the funeral and disposition. The funeral director is trained to listen and help survivors cope with their loss and when necessary, be able to make a referral to other professionals for additional help. An important function of the funeral director is to relieve the survivors of having to make arrangements for a religious or fraternal service, preparing a death notice, ordering flowers and arranging for a burial or cremation.
Q: Must I buy a casket for the deceased?
In New York State, a casket is not required. The funeral purchaser may provide a suitable container for burial or cremation. Cemeteries or crematories may have specific requirements for containers for the deceased.
Q: Must I have embalming?
Embalming is not required in New York State for all except a few specific highly contagious diseases. Funeral homes may require embalming for specific reasons such as viewing of the deceased.
Q: Can a funeral director refuse to embalm or charge more to embalm the remains of a person?
In New York State a funeral director may not refuse to embalm, otherwise handle or charge extra for preparing or handling the remains of a person who has been autopsied or died of an infectious disease, such as AIDS, hepatitis B or tuberculosis.
Q: Can the funeral director refuse to let me view the body if even only briefly?
The funeral director may advise against viewing the body, but the customer has the right to view the body briefly. If the viewing is prolonged, the funeral director may consider it to be a visitation and charge a fee.
Q: Why have funeral ceremonies?
Funerals are age-old rituals that serve to honor the deceased. What has been found to be of equal importance is that the funeral also helps the survivors cope with the loss by playing an important part in the grief process. We all go through a psychological change with the loss of a loved one. The grief process, as the change is called, helps us live with the loss. The funeral helps us to initiate behaviors that might not be available to us without the funeral.
Q: May I participate in a funeral ceremony?
Participation in a funeral ceremony can be very helpful. It allows you to express your feelings and provides a means of personalizing the funeral for the deceased. The ceremony has much more meaning if it is made to order for the deceased and family.
Q: Must I make arrangements for the religious ceremony, or do you do it?
The funeral director's job is to assist the survivors with arranging the funeral. Contacting the clergy is an important part of that job. You will still be able to discuss your wishes for the ceremony with the clergy.
Q: Why do some cemeteries require a concrete container for the casket?
Many cemeteries require a concrete outer interment receptacle called a grave liner, lawn crypt or vault for the grave. They require this so the grave will not sink and will remain stable over time. If this is a problem because of religious reasons, it is possible to find a cemetery which will not require an outer interment receptacle.
Q: Does Social Security help pay for a funeral?
The Social Security Administration provides a $255 burial allowance to the surviving spouse who was living under the same roof of a person who has paid into Social Security. In addition, there are other benefits available under certain circumstances.
Q: Does the Veterans Administration help pay for a funeral?
The Veterans Administration provides certain benefits to honorably discharged, deceased veterans. The veteran, his or her spouse and dependent children are entitled to burial space in a national cemetery. In addition, the VA will pay an allowance for transportation if the veteran died in a veteran's hospital. The VA will also provide a headstone for non-national cemeteries.
Q: Why do some families request donations to a charity rather than flowers?
Some families prefer the money that would be spent on flowers be donated to a charity. This is a personal choice as many people feel comforted by flowers at the funeral, and even if the family doesn't request flowers, some people still feel more comfortable sending flowers.
Q: Should I bring a child to a wake or funeral?
Children's attendance at a wake or funeral must be determined on an individual basis. It is generally felt that children must feel a part of what is going on when a death occurs. It may be traumatic and damaging to a child to feel left out of loop. If the child does not want to be present at the wake or funeral, he or she should not be forced to attend. It would be wise, however, to discuss the child's choices with him or her. It should also be remembered that the child may get bored during the wake, and the parent should make some provision for that while at the funeral home. We have some excellent literature answering a child's questions about death as well.
Q: Can I donate my body to science?
Yes. Medical schools and research facilities use human remains for training and research purposes. There can still be a wake and funeral service for someone who has bequeathed their body to science. Before making a final decision on where to make the donation, the terms of the donations should be explored, including the ultimate disposition of the remains. Your funeral director can help you with this.
Q: Are we running out of space for burials?
No. There is plenty of space in most parts of the country. If you are trying to decide between burial and cremation, space should not be a consideration.
Q: Does having a cremation mean there will be no funeral service?
No. There can be a wake and funeral in the same way there is in a burial. The only difference is that at the end of the funeral service the remains are cremated rather than buried.
Q: How much does a funeral cost?
There is no set number for what a funeral might cost. Funerals are no more expensive than other major life events such as weddings and births. However, happy life events typically do not raise much sensitivity about cost. Funeral homes operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is a labor-intensive business with extensive costs for facilities and services. These expenses are factored into the cost of a funeral.
Q: If a death occurs at night, can I call the funeral director immediately?
A: Yes. The funeral director is ready to assist you immediately when the death occurs. As well as the normal services such as removal of the deceased, the funeral director can help you by answering questions, scheduling the arrangement conference and advising you on what to bring with you.
Q: What happens if the death occurs out of town?
Your local funeral director can make all arrangements for bringing the remains back for you. Your local funeral director will contact a funeral director in the area where the death occurred and arrange for the removal, preparation and shipping. This is often the most cost-effective way of handling the arrangements.
Q: Why pre-plan or pre-pay a funeral?
A: Pre-planning a funeral allows you the opportunity to select a funeral service that meets your needs and wishes. It eases the burden on your survivors who might not know what your wishes are. Pre-paying a funeral gives you the peace of mind of knowing that the money for your funeral has been set aside. Medicaid allows funds to be set aside for funeral expenses, which is a big consideration when a person must go into a nursing home.