FAQ

We are currently compiling a list of a frequently asked questions and general information to help answer questions you may have about the funeral process. Below is information for people to consider when planning how to handle the care of their deceased loved one.

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Mortuary | Cremains | Donations | Cemetery | Pre-planning

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MORTUARY

Every mortuary and cemetery has different options and package plans.  Pricing is usually better with a package plan.  It is important to decide what options you want and what you can afford when taking care of your loved one.

If you are comparison shopping for prices be sure you know what is included in your package plan.  Most mortuaries have a direct cremation and an immediate burial.  These prices may or may not include everything that is need for the burial or cremation. One of the best ways to make sure all of the necessities are include is to ask them if you send a check with someone for the amount quoted will there be any additional fees?  You can “what is the bottom line”?  Will there be any other charges?  Are there any hidden fees?  Confirm the price and ask for their name.

A general price sheet and the Arizona consumers guide must be given to everyone requesting pricing information from a mortuary.  It is the law.  Ask about package plans as they can be a benefit.

Check out the service options and pricing.  Not everyone requires the same level of service. The price of the cremation or burial does not always constitute better service. It may just reflect the beauty or location of the building.

If you’re not sure about what mortuary to use call hospice, social workers at the hospital, or clergy for help.  Most of them can direct you depending on your wants and needs.  You can also call the state funeral board to find out about their reputation.  You can check with the better business bureau.  Just because there is a complaint doesn’t always mean there is a problem.  Sometimes no matter what the mortuary or cemetery does they can not please the person.  Check out all information about complaints. Remember there are always two sides to every story.

You do not have to buy product from the mortuary or cemetery. Many times urns and caskets can be purchased elsewhere less expensively.  You may already have something that would not only make a beautiful urn but would be associated with fond memories of your loved one.  Homemade caskets can be a special work of love.  There are no laws about bringing products into an establishment.  Mortuaries can charge to put cremains in an urn purchased elsewhere.  Cemeteries can charge more to set a vault, outer burial container, or headstone.  They can require minimum standards to be met.  If you doubt what they are saying or have concerns ask for their written policy.

If the mortuary or cemetery says something is against the law ask them where it can be found.  Ask if they have a copy of the law.  If they can not tell you it is probably a rule not a law. If in doubt call the state board they can assure you of the truth.  They know about the laws. The state realtor board is over cemeteries, the state funeral board is over mortuaries, funeral homes, and crematories and the State insurance board in over life insurance.

When a company requires you to purchase something always ask “what are the minimum requirements” many times they will quote you the middle product hoping to get the sale.

It is not necessary to have a mortuary close to your home to handle the arrangements of your loved one as most funerals are held in your church. Therefore you can often times save money by driving a few extra miles.  Immediate burial and direct cremations are only used to make arrangements,

If you are choosing a direct cremation most paperwork can be completed via fax or internet. So shopping can definitely be a bonus.

If you are only planning to have a memorial service it is not necessary for a funeral home to be involved.  A funeral home only has to be involved when there is a physical body of the deceased present.

Embalming is only necessary if there is a public viewing.  Some mortuaries will encourage you to embalm rather than pay refrigeration.  Check out the price differences.  You are the consumer.

It is possible for a family to choose a traditional funeral service with a cremation.  The deceased is placed in a rental casket for the services.  The rental casket is lines with a cardboard box with all the interior of a regular casket. Once the service is over the box and loved one is removed leaving an empty shell. After the service the deceased is taken to the crematory rather than the cemetery.

CREMAINS

Cremains can be shipped to a different town or state via US mail or air freight.  No other shipping company will accept responsibility of cremains.  Cremains can be driven across state lines.  They can be carried on a plane as a carry on (please check with airport security for regulations concerning the urn).

Most states will allow you to bury cremains from a different state without any permits.  Check with the cemetery to see if there are any permits required.

Some people will tell you it is against the law to scatter cremains.  Read the Arizona Consumer folder to find out the truth in Arizona.  Check with the State Funeral Board in other states for the truth.

DONATIONS

There are several different kinds of donations.  It is important to ask lots of questions so you make sure the type of donation you agree to is what you want for your loved one.  You can request cremains to be returned.  You can request the entire body be used or not returned.  Some donations do not return the cremains for several months or a year while others return within a few weeks.  Make sure you have all the details before signing your name.

Some donations use the entire body organs, bones, and joints while others may only accept  joints or certain organs such as the brain.  Some donations are used for educational purposes while others are used for research.  Some use the body immediately while others store them until certain parts are needed for a project.

Some donation organizations have weight limits whether too small or too large.  Contagious diseased bodies can not be used by anyone.

CEMETERY

When looking for cemetery property ask about perpetual care, opening and closing costs, and the type of vault or outer burial container required, and if a headstone is required. These can definitely alter the price of the land.  Find out what type of headstones are required and what are the installation fees.  Bronze versus granite is a big price difference.

Remember when a private cemetery is used they can sale the property and the next owner may not take care of the property. Find out what your options are before you purchase.

PRE PLANNING

If you are pre planning make sure the mortuary you use puts your money in an insurance policy.  Insurance is very heavily governed by the government they have been proven to be safe.  Your money will be there when you need it.  Trusts can be tricky.  Too many people have lost all or part of their money.  There is also frequently a problem if you do not pass away in the same town where the trust was purchased.

When you purchase insurance to pay for your pre-need you are not obligated to use that mortuary.  Often times you move, your wants change, or the people at the mortuary change and you want to go elsewhere.  That is your choice.  The advantage to using the same mortuary for the same services is the services are usually guaranteed.  Make sure you see it in writing.

By state law there is a form that can be filled out, signed, and notarized that will allow a person to be cremated if that is their desire.  If this form is not filled out the legal next of kin must sign the cremation authorization (if there are more than 1 the majority of the legal next of kin must sign).  a notarized medical health care power of attorney can sign if:

1.      the power of attorney states the individual  wants to be cremated
2.    the individual gives authority for the power of attorney to make the decisions in regards to their demise

The Arizona State Attorney Generals web site has an excellent medical power of attorney on line that can be used.  It is wonderful.

If there are no family and no medical health care power of attorney the individual making the arrangements can place an obituary in the newspaper and then wait 2 weeks.  They are then legally able to take responsibility for the care of the loved one.

If you choose to do a donation as a pre-need you will want to have another option just in case the loved one will not qualify once they are deceased.  Some donation organizations have weight limits whether too small or too large or contagious disease.  Often times the exceptions are not known until the end.  You can often time choose a mortuary who will help you with the donation process so you only have to have one plan.

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Everyone has a choice of cremation, burial, or donation if the loved one qualifies. If you are doing a donation besure to do your homework so you know exactly what you are getting, what they are taking from your loved one, and what they are giving you in return. Most donation places will pay for the cremation. Some will return the cremains immediately, others within weeks, months or never. Be sure you know what you want. Ask questions. Donations can be wonderful for some and difficult for others. Some organizations will paint a beautiful picture that isn’t reality. Check it out!

If you are doing a donation it is good to have a back up plan just incase the loved one is rejected. Rejections can come because the individuals weight is too little or too much, if there is a contagious disease, unknown cause of death such as septsis, or other possible medical conditions. It is better to be prepared in advance than looking for a mortuary at the last minute in an emotional state.

Embalming only has to ake place if there is going to be a public viewing. You can bury or cremate an unembalmed body. Some mortuary will charge for an ID view. Before you decide this is what you want make sure of the charges.

It is always best to make sure what mortuary you want to use before you have some one pick up your loved one and transport them to a mortuary. If a mortuary picks up your loved one and then you decide to change mortuaries they can and usually will charge a removal fee plus refrigeration. If they have typed the death certificate they can also charge for those services. It is better to be prepared. Ask questions in advance if time is available.

In Arizona every mortuary is required to give familes the Arizona State Consumer Guide Informational brochure. This brochure has general information regarding funeral, cremations, burial, trust, and preneeds. Everyone entering a mortuary is also to be given a general price list with all mortuary pricing on it. No one can refuse to give you one. It is the law. Ask about package plans as they are often times more affordable.

Every mortuary and cemetery has different options and packages. It is important to decide what options you want and what you can afford when taking care of your loved ones arrangements. If you are working with a budget ask for options.

You may want to wait to purchase an urn, make your own funeral folders, or choose to do your own memorial service if your are wanting to cut costs. A memorial service can be held in a back yard, a friends home, a community building, a park, or your own church. Mortuary personnel only have to be present if there is a deceased physical body present.

If you are doing comparison shopping for pricing be sure you know what is included in the package so you are comparing correctly. Most mortuaries have direct cremation and immediate burials. They usually include everything necessary for the cremation or burial. Unfortunately there are some mortuaries that do not include everything. One of the best ways to make sure that everything necessary is included is to ask “If I send someone else in with a check will there be any additonal fees or can I make the check out for the amount quoted?” You can also ask is this the bottom line? Will there be any other charges? Are there any hidden costs. It is a good idea to reconfirm the quoted price.

You do not have to purchase products from the mortuary or cemetery. Many times urns and caskets can be purchased elsewhere less expensively. There are no laws about bringing products into an establishment. Mortuaries and cemeteries may have rules about what they do and do not accept but there are no laws. Mortuaries can charge to put cremains in an urn purchased elsewhere so this is something to consider when comparing prices. Cemeteries can charge more to set another companies outer burial container or headstone. They have the right to set minium standards. It is a good thing for the buyer to be aware before they purchase than have to repurchase to meet the requirements.

When looking for cemetery land ask about perpetual care and the type of headstone (marble, bronze, granite) that is required and the amount of time before a head stone must be place on the grave. The type of headstone can affect the total purchase price.
If a mortuary or cemetery tell you it is against the law and it doesn’t sound right ask them to provide it to you in writing. You can also ask to see their minium requirements in writing. If they can not produce it for you it probably is not against the law or it isn’t the minium requirement. You can always call the funeral board or the real estate board. They know the laws.

If you are concerned about the integrity or the reputation of a mortuary or cemetery you can call their governing board. They can help you. You may or may not get an accurate answer form the Better Busi
ness Bureau as it is a business that sells memberships.

When a mortuary or cemetery requires you to purchase something be sure to ask “What are your minium requirements?” Other wise they may quote you the middle of the line product. An example of this is to sell you a low end vault rather than a grave box or a dome. Selling you a scattering urn rather than allowing you to recieve the cremains in a temporary container.

It is not necessary to select a mortuary close to your home as most funerals take place at a church or other private facility, therefore if may be less expensive to make arrangemtnoutside of your neighborhood. Cremations only require paperwork that can often be completed via the fax or email. Even if you drive a distance to the facility it may be worth the drive for the savings. One lady stated I saved $800 by driving 50 miles. A funeral usually only requires you to make one trip while a cremation will require you to make two trips or pay to have the cremains shipped.

Ask about services and pricing. Not everyone requires the same level of service. Paying more doesn’t alway constitue better service.

If you need a recommendation a hospice worker, social worker, or clergy can be a good place to start. If you are still concerned call the governing board. They can not recommend but they can agree or disagree with your choice.

If you have already made pre arrangements they can often be changed. If you paid for a traditional funeral and have decided tohave a cremation this could allow you a refund tohelp at this time in your life. If you choose one mortuary and you have moved to a different location they can usually be transferred to a closer mortuary. If you purchased a plan at one mortuary and you are now not wanting to use that servcie frequently it is possilbe to change mortuaries, You just need to ask questions.

If you are planning to purchase a preneed you will want to make sure you purchase the preneed with a life insurance policy rather than a trust. Some mortuaries will tell you a trust is safe. Make sure you check it out as some people have lost their money or a percentage of their funding by using a trust. Make sure you know that your services are guaranteed if you prepay. It can be to your advantage if you purchase a plan when you are young and your preneed is guaranteed when you pass.

Often times individuals are told they will be served wherever they go as they are a national company. Be careful because mileage fees can add up. There is no company that has a mortuary in every area. Often times their fees are higher than purchasing a travel policy with a small mortuary that will actually guarantee pricing wherever you are in the world. It may be to your advantage to find two mortauries if you are a winter visitor or a summer traveler.

The trick to not to be taken advantage of. It is to be educated and ask lots of questions. Be prepared is the best motto. No one wants to leave Mother earth. Unfortunately we are guaranteed that we will be leaving at some time. It is up to us and our families to be prepared.

The greatest gift you can give your survivors is a knowledge of what you want. It is important to communicate with them. Some times what you want and what they need for closure is different. By communicating you can hopefully find a compromise that will work for eveyone.