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Since many options are available, you may wish to discuss the type of funeral arrangements with your clergy and family members. Keep in mind that the funeral is for the survivors. If it is meaningful for you, it can help lead to a healthy resolution of the grief you and your family are experiencing.
Are there Religious Considerations?
Some religions have specific preferences or requirements. If you don’t know, ask your funeral director or clergy.
Member of Lodge, Fraternal Organization or Military Veteran?
Many lodges and fraternal organizations have funeral traditions and rituals that are performed during the visitation or funeral service. If the deceased was a military veteran, he or she is entitled to a U.S. flag and military honors performed by veteran organizations. Your funeral director will explain and arrange such services for you if desired.
Is cost a factor?
Yes, cost is a factor, but all funeral homes have a price list available for your review. It will be easier to discuss arrangements if you have an idea of what you are able to afford. The average funeral in Michigan in 2010, exclusive of cemetery charges, costs about $7,045.
Do you want a Burial or Entombment?
Earth burial is the most common means of disposition in the United States. Costs include a casket, cemetery plot, opening and closing of the grave, a grave liner or vault and a memorial or marker. These costs vary considerably by cemetery and locality.
Entombment is the placement of the casket above ground in a mausoleum. Mausoleum space may be more expensive than a cemetery plot.
Most cemeteries require full payment at the time you buy a plot and make burial arrangements and you should be prepared for this by bringing cash or your checkbook with you. Some will take an assignment of insurance if you can prove that the policy is valid and will pay an amount sufficient to cover the expenses. Government life insurance policies are not assignable.
Do you want a Cremation?
Cremation is just one form of disposition. The others are ground burial, above-ground burial, body donations (in which case the body is eventually cremated) and burial at sea (not permitted in the Great Lakes.) The choice of cremation does not limit or dictate the funeral options available. Most cremations are preceded by some type of viewing or funeral service. If the body is viewed, it is usually embalmed. Cremation reduces the body to small bone fragments, which are pulverized, reducing the fragments to the consistency of coarse sand or crushed seashells.
Do you want Embalming?
Embalming is not required by Michigan law EXCEPT if burial or cremation does not take place within 48 hours of death or if the deceased had certain communicable diseases. Further, a funeral home normally requires and has the right to require embalming if a public visitation is planned. Additionally, common carrier regulations usually require embalming as a condition for the transportation of a deceased person. You should also check the embalming laws and regulations of other states if the deceased is to be transported outside of Michigan.If embalming is desired, the amount of time that elapses between death and embalming can make a difference in the personal appearance of the body. Permission for embalming should be granted as soon as possible for best results.
Do you want a gathering time for Family and Friends?
Also know as "visitation," a “viewing” “calling hours” or a “wake”, a gathering time involves having the body lie in state with members of the family present so that friends may pay last respects to the deceased. The length of this gathering time may vary from a couple of hours to days depending on the wishes and traditions of the family. You may prefer a private viewing restricted to the family. At Borek Jennings, we call this a Family Farewell.
Do you want a Religious Service before Burial?
Arrangements will need to be made with appropriate clergy to set times and types of religious services which can be held in the funeral home chapel or any appropriate place of your choice such as a church, temple, synagogue or hall. These arrangements can be made by the funeral home if you so choose.
Do you want a Graveside Service?
When the body or the cremated remains are buried in the ground or entombed in a mausoleum, a service may be held at the gravesite. A graveside service may or may not consist of religious rituals and is usually of shorter duration than a traditional service at a funeral home or church. The times and manner of graveside services may be restricted by cemetery regulations. Arrangements will need to be made with the cemetery to set up the proper facilities. The funeral home will make these arrangements for you.
What is your choice for Final Disposition of the Cremated Remains?
While cremation is considered a final disposition by law, obviously the cremated remains must be cared for and the funeral director must know your plans. Unless you make arrangements with the funeral director, you bear sole responsibility for their disposition and you should collect them upon notice of their availability. They may be buried in the earth, entombed in a mausoleum, placed in a niche in a columbarium, scattered on or over private land or water with the permission of the owner or remain in the possession of the family, usually in an urn. Scattering of cremated remains must never interfere with the rights of others.
Do you want a Memorial Service after disposition?
A memorial service is usually held after a direct cremation or burial. The distinctive feature of a memorial service is that the body is not present. This service can be held in a funeral home, chapel, church, synagogue, home, or any place that is meaningful to the survivors. However, most grief counselors recommend that it is better to hold services with the body present.
Do you have to have a service?
Disposition of the body may occur without any service. Expenses will include removal of the body from the place of death, transportation of the body to the burial or cremation site and whatever may be necessary to meet legal requirements and the minimum requirements of the funeral home involved. For some, not having any services may be a form of psychological denial and can often cause emotional problems and guilt feelings for a family members in the future.
What about Body Donation?
Some persons choose to have their bodies donated to medical teaching facilities either directly or after a service is held. This arrangement with a facility should be made by an individual prior to death. However, many facilities already have more requests on file than their needs warrant.
Are there other options you wish to consider?
Funeral homes provide other services such as placing obituary and death notices in the newspaper, obtaining Death Certificates and assisting you in filing for death benefits. They will arrange for transportation of the body to another funeral home in or out of state, transportation to the cemetery, payment of honoraria or gratuities to clergy and musicians. They will order, accept, place and transport all floral wreaths and bouquets. Such services are provided upon request. Some funeral homes will include some or all of these services at their cost without additional fees and some will charge a fee for each service performed. Many funeral homes also provide, without charge, counseling and support group services or referral. At Borek Jennings, we provide more than 27 Healing Support Services that will help your family through the Acute Loss Period and begin healing.
Visit the Funeral Home and Meet the Funeral Director
You are now ready to visit the funeral home of your choice to prepare for the funeral. The funeral profession, as a care taking group, has personnel and facilities available for those who need assistance prior to or at the time of death.
Information and clothing the Funeral Director will need
To facilitate the arrangements and the filing of the Death Certificate, it will be helpful if you bring the following (if applicable) to the arrangements conference:
- Birth Certificate if available: information needed is father’s full name, mother’s first and Maiden name and date and place of birth.
- Ancestry (nationality).
- Education level.
- U.S. Armed Forces Honorable Discharge papers.
- Recent photograph.
- Any information about cemetery property-Cemetery papers/deeds (if applicable and available).
- Brief list of surviving relatives (names and places of their residences).
- List of pallbearers (if desired).
- Name of person(s) to officiate at the service/Mass/memorial.
- List of persons playing music and the hymns/songs requested.
- Clothing: the clothing should include a complete set of underclothing and whatever outer clothing the family deems appropriate.
- 20 family photographs of the deceased spanning the life (baby, school, wedding, etc.)
Making the Arrangements
Even if arrangements were preplanned by the deceased, you will be required to meet with a funeral director to confirm the arrangements and/or plan the type of service you desire. The wishes of the deceased do not prevail over the wishes of the next-of-kin. At this time you must determine what tasks you want the funeral home to perform and what facilities are needed to meet your needs.
Evaluating the cost
Although difficult, it is important to remember during this meeting that you are purchasing services and merchandise and are renting facilities. Live within your budget. Regardless of the cost of your funeral, you will receive the same professional and compassionate service from the funeral director.
Important Disclosure Documents
The funeral director will provide you with a price list of goods and services before discussing funeral arrangements. This is a legal requirement for your protection and information. Before entering the casket selection room, you must be provided with a casket price list for your inspection. There may also be a display of photographs or a book of casket representations. These are all required to contain price information concerning the casket cost and it must be separated from the funeral costs so you know exactly what you are paying for the casket. This also applies to the purchase of a vault or the outer burial container in which the casket is placed, which is required by almost all cemeteries.
To avoid misunderstandings
You will be expected to sign a contract and other documents specifying the arrangements you have made. You may also be asked to sign a statement that you have received certain documents. Do not be offended. Your signature is proof that the funeral home has met its legal commitment. Sometimes, when a complaint is lodged against a funeral home, the complainant does not remember receiving the documents because of emotional stress. The documents are important to you and you should read them carefully and refer to them as often as you like.
Selecting the Merchandise
When you have made some of your initial arrangements, the funeral director will lead you to a display area that contains a number of caskets and other merchandise from which you will make your selections.
Professional Service Fees
The contract you sign with the funeral home will contain a basic fee for professional services. This basic fee includes overhead, such as rent, utilities, administrative personnel, insurance, maintenance, etc. This is a legitimate charge. It is not negotiable and does not represent any of the goods and services you have chosen.
Read the Contract before signing
You are entitled to know what each charge is for and may change your selections before you sign the contract or you may go elsewhere. A funeral home may not refuse to release a body to another home for any reason. However, you will be financially responsible for any services that you have previously authorized, such as removal, embalming, or transportation to another funeral home.