Funeral and Burial FAQs
How are funerals selected?
Taking into account the needs and desires of the survivors, most people select funerals that will memorialize the deceased individual and provide a socially significant time for survivors to mourn and pay tribute to the fact that a life has been lived. Obviously, the funeral is for the living, not the dead. It allows for a transition of the survivors to a different life, without the deceased. It permits a psychological outlet for grief to be expressed. Quite often, ethnic or religious considerations will determine funerals selected by survivors.
What purpose does a funeral serve?
It is the customary way to recognize death and its finality. Funerals are recognized rituals for the living to show respect for the dead and to help survivors begin the grief process.
What kinds of funerals do most persons select?
No two funerals are exactly alike. Each funeral reflects the unique needs and desires of survivors. (Remember, funerals are for the living.) Funerals offer an outlet for grief and death acceptance. Funerals are also a testimony to a life that has been lived, and quite often become reunions of family and friends of the deceased. The occasion of death generally is marked by a ceremony, usually religious. After the funeral, an organized procession usually leads to the place of interment or cremation.
What do funeral directors do?
It has been estimated that over 136 individual activities must take place in order for one funeral to be conducted. The funeral director is actually an organizational specialist. Funeral directors are caregivers and administrators. They make the arrangements for transportation of the body, professional care of the deceased, which may include sanitary washing, embalming preparation, restorative art, dressing, hairdressing, casketing and cosmetology , complete all necessary paperwork, and implement the choices made by the family regarding the funeral and final disposition of the body. Funeral directors are listeners, advisors and supporters. They have experience assisting the bereaved in coping with death. Funeral directors are trained to answer questions about grief, recognize when a person is having difficulty coping, and recommend sources of professional help. Funeral directors also link survivors with support groups in the community.
Do you have to have a funeral director to bury the dead?
No law in Minnesota prevents family members from burying their own dead as long as filing requirements are met. However, most people find it very trying to be solely responsible for arranging the details and legal matters surrounding a death.
l matters surrounding a death.
Why have a public viewing?
Viewing is part of many cultural and ethnic traditions. Many grief specialists believe that viewing aids the grief process by helping the bereaved recognize the reality of death. Viewing is encouraged for children, as long as the process is explained and the activity voluntary.
What is the purpose of embalming?
Embalming sanitizes and preserves the body, retards the decomposition process, and enhances the appearance of a body disfigured by traumatic death or illness. Embalming makes it possible to lengthen the time between death and the final disposition, thus allowing family members time to arrange and participate in the type of service most comforting to them.
Does a dead body have to be embalmed, according to law?
No, unless the body is to be shipped by common carrier, or a public viewal or visitation is requested, or when final disposition will be more than 72 hours after death, or if so ordered by the Commissioner of Health.
Is there a law that requires caskets to be placed in vaults prior to burial?
No, there is no such law. However, certain cemeteries require that some type of hard container house the casket to prevent cave-ins at the cemetery in subsequent years, and for ease of grounds maintenance. A vault meets these cemetery requirements.
Isn't burial space becoming scarce?
While it is true some metropolitan areas have limited available cemetery space, in most areas of the country there is enough space set aside for the next 50 years without creating new cemeteries. In addition, land available for new cemeteries is more than adequate, especially with the increase in entombment and multilevel grave burial.
How much does a funeral cost?
The cost depends on the type of services and merchandise a family chooses. Ask your Funeral Director to go through these prices to find a cost and service that best fits your families needs.
Do funeral directors take advantage of the bereaved?
Funeral directors are caring individuals who help people deal with a very stressful time. They serve the same families 80% of the time, and many have spent most of their lives in the same community. If they took advantage of bereaved families, they could not stay in business. The fact that the average funeral home has been in business over 59 years shows that most funeral directors respect the wishes of the bereaved families.
Is cremation a substitute for a funeral?
No, cremation is an alternative to earth burial or entombment for the body's final disposition and often follows a traditional funeral service.
Why are funerals so expensive?
When compared to other major life cycle events, like births and weddings, funerals are not expensive. A wedding costs at least three times as much; but because it is a happy event, wedding costs are rarely criticized. A funeral home is a 24-hour, labor-intensive business, with extensive facilities (viewing rooms, chapels, limousines, hearses, etc.), these expenses must be factored into the cost of a funeral. Moreover, the cost of a funeral includes not only merchandise, like caskets, but the services of a funeral director in making arrangements; filing appropriate forms; dealing with doctors, ministers, florists, newspapers and others; and seeing to all the necessary details. Contrary to popular belief, funeral homes are largely family-owned with a modest profit margin.
Is it right to make a profit from death?
Funeral directors look upon their profession as a service, but it is also a business. Like any business, funeral homes must make a profit to exist. As long as the profit is reasonable and the services rendered are necessary, complete, and satisfactory to the family, profit is legitimate.
Who pays for funerals for the indigent?
Other than the family, there are veteran, union, and other organizational benefits to pay for funerals, including, in certain instances, a lump sum death payment from Social Security. In Minnesota, individual counties have burial assistance for indigent people. Most funeral directors are aware of the various benefits and know how to obtain them for the indigent. However, funeral directors often absorb costs above and beyond what is allowed by the county.
What about public assistance laws?
Public assistance laws such as Medical Assistance (MA) and SSI (Supplemental Security Income) change periodically, but always take into account that some, if not all, funeral expenses may be pre-paid. Those pre-paid funeral expenses then are not considered "assets," within certain limits, to the person going on MA or SSI in Minnesota. In other words, certain pre-paid funeral expenses and funeral merchandise can be "excluded" from a person's assets when MA or SSI is considered in the future. See your county social services eligibility office for details, or contact your local funeral director about the amounts you may set aside from current assets to pre-pay future funeral and burial expenses.
Where can I get literature on funerals?
Any funeral firm is your best source. It's free. If you have any questions based on the literature provided, contact the funeral director for detailed information.
What about pre-arrangements, or pre-funding of funerals?
A growing trend in the United States is to make "pre-need" arrangements. These are simply arrangements made prior to actual need (at death). Funerals also can be partially or fully pre-funded through legal establishment of funeral trusts or life insurance. Your funeral director has all the forms and information you need. There are no "membership fees" or other charges to pre-arrange or pre-pay with a funeral director.
What about cremation?
Cremation is an alternative to earth burial. Cremation is not, of course, the funeral. It is a form of final disposition of the body by intense heat. Cremation as a form of final disposition is offered through any funeral home of your choice. The funeral home will make necessary arrangements with the crematory, just as it acts as the family's agent with the cemetery with earth burials. Cremation may be preceded by a regular funeral with the body present, or followed by a memorial service. In the case of a funeral, a rental casket can be used for visitation and funeral services, after which the cremation occurs, just as interment in a cemetery takes place after funeral services.
Is a casket required by law when remains will be cremated?
No, it is not. Some type of alternative container is required by the crematory to enable dignified handling of remains. Rental caskets are now widely available for funeral services preceding cremation.
What does a person do when death occurs away from home?
Call the hometown funeral director of your choice. He or she will make all necessary arrangements with the funeral director in the area where death occurred. The funeral director handles all the details whether a funeral is held at place of death, back home, or both places.