Frequently Asked Questions about Funerals
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.
How do most persons select a funeral director?
Nearly always, people choose funeral directors based on their reputation. Selection of funeral directors from ads or Yellow Pages is rare. Keep in mind that the way a funeral director serves families is readily known in the community. Reputation is keenly important to a funeral director. If you need a funeral director and for some reason do not know one, the reference of a relative or friend whose family has been served satisfactorily is one wise way to make a decision. Know in advance, if you can, whom you would select for a death in your family. Then, visit the funeral home, talk with the licensed funeral director, examine the facilities, and understand the ways the funeral director will serve you. Members of the Minnesota Funeral Directors Association, a professional organization founded in 1890, have already accepted an obligation and responsibilty to adhere to a Code of Professional Practices, which contains pledges of integrity and public service and education. All Minnesota funeral directors are licensed annually by the Deptartment of Health.
Does state law require embalming?
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.
What is the purpose of embalming?
Embalming preserves the body so it can be sanitarily presentable for funeralization.
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.
When can I find out what the total funeral will cost?
When you talk to the funeral director, each component of the service will be priced out so you know in advance. When arrangements are completed, the funeral director will complete a Funeral Purchase Record (also called a Statement of Funeral Goods & Services Selected). This itemization summarizes all charges. Estimates are given for some cost items (such as obituary notices, transportation between cities, etc.) if these are known at time of arrangements.
Funeral costs will be in the following categories, and can be compared from one funeral home to another:
♦ Professional Services of Funeral Directors & Staff
♦ Embalming; Other Preparation of the Body (hairdressing, or after autopsies)
♦ Use of Facilities for Viewing, Ceremonies
♦ Transfer of Remains
♦ Hearse and Other Automotive Equipment
♦ Casket; Outer Burial Container ("Vault")
♦ Miscellaneous Merchandise (such as Acknowledgement Cards).
In Minnesota, every casket displayed in a funeral home's "Selection Room" will carry its price clearly displayed, usually inside the casket. Feel free to ask the funeral director any questions you might have about prices. In fact, the funeral director will have a "General Price List" to offer you for your retention.
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 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.
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.
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.
Whom do I contact if I have a complaint?
Nationally, and particularly in Minnesota, families served by funeral directors have remarkably few complaints. Misunderstandings do arise from time to time, of course. First, discuss your concern with the funeral director. If you feel you were not treated fairly, he or she should be given the opprotunity at least to know your concerns and to answer any questions you might have. If this is not feasible, provide the facts in writing to the Minnesota Funeral Directors Association, Professional Practices Committee, 7046 East Fish Lake Rd, Maple Grove, MN 55311. This professional association responds to all inquiries about member firms. Or you may contact the Mortuary Science Unit, Minnesota Dept. of Health, at 717 Delaware Street SE, Minneapolis, MN 55440. This Department licenses all funeral directors in the state and issues permits for funeral establishments.The regulatory agency that handles consumer complaints is the Attorney General's Office, Consumer Complaints, 445 Minnesota St., Suite 1400, St. Paul, MN 55101, 651/296-3353.