Plan a Funeral

Frequently Asked Questions

The amount of questions surrounding funeral planning can be overwhelming.   Here’s a guide to some of the most frequently asked questions and their answers when planning a funeral.

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 healing process.

What do Funeral Directors do?

Funeral directors spend the majority of their time helping families with their funeral planning to create a meaningful tribute to their loved one. Learning about the person who lived is very important, and listening is perhaps their greatest skill. Working as a team, funeral directors strive to create a comfortable environment for families, visitors, and friends. There are also a tremendous amount of administrative responsibilities and event planning that funeral directors handle behind the scenes (including coordination with clergy, cemeteries, crematories, reception halls, restaurants, funeral flowers, musicians, veteran honor guards, veteran benefit offices, social security, city/town clerks and health departments, doctors offices, medical examiners office newspapers, airlines, website, etc.).

Why have a public viewing?

Viewing is part of many cultural and ethnic traditions. Many grief counseling specialists believe that viewing aids grief  support 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. Most states, however, require embalming when death was caused by a reportable contagious disease or when remains are to be transported from one state to another by common carrier or if final disposition is not to be made within a prescribed number of hours.

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 the need to build and deal with choosing a Cemetery. In addition, land available for new cemeteries is more than adequate, especially with the increase in entombment and multi-level grave burial.

What are the average funeral costs?

Funeral costs are divided into three parts. The first part is the funeral home service charges. The second part is the casket, outer burial container and/or urn selected. The third part is the non-funeral home costs like cemetery/crematory expenses and newspaper notices.  Here is an example of a funeral homes final expense plan charges:

  1. We currently offer a “complete funeral service package” which includes all the services necessary to have a gathering of friends (also referred to as a wake or visiting hours), a church service or funeral home service, the hearse, administrative support, obituary web site listing, and full attention of our funeral caregivers in creating a meaningful service. Our charge for this complete package is $4,745.00. If other services are selected, individual costs will be itemized. Our complete general price list is available in our funeral home. You may request a copy in person, over the phone, or through email.
  2. Caskets range in price from $490 to $9000 depending on the material from which they are constructed (cherry, pine, mahogany, poplar, oak, steel, stainless steel, copper, or bronze); the interior fabric (velvet or crepe); the finish (polished or satin); and the thickness of the material. Outer burial containers range in price from $1,265.00 to $3,400.00. Urns range in price from $68 to $1,900.
  3. The non-funeral expenses are outside charges which the funeral home pays on the family’s behalf. After receiving payment from the family, the funeral home writes and distributes the checks to necessary places. These costs include newspaper notices (which can range from $75 to $750 or more), flowers, musicians, clergy offerings, and many other items. We highly recommend sitting down with us to discuss the type of services that would be appropriate for your family. Through this process, we can create a complete estimate of expense.

Has this cost increased significantly?

Funeral costs have increased no faster than the consumer price index for other consumer items.

Why are funerals so expensive?

When compared to other major life cycle events, like births and weddings, funerals are not expensive. A funeral home is a 24/7, labor-intensive business, with extensive facilities and equipment. Contrary to popular belief, funeral homes are largely family-owned, community centered businesses with a modest profit margin.

Is cremation less expensive than burial?

In most cases cremation is less expensive than burial. Cremation does not require a burial vault, and the crematory fees are typically less expensive than cemetery grave opening fees.

What recourse does a consumer have for poor service or overcharging?

Funeral service is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission and state licensing boards. Consumers are encouraged to discuss problems or concerns with the funeral director first. If a dispute cannot be solved by talking with the funeral director, other options are available. Consumers can call the National Funeral Directors Association ( Funeral Service Help Line for information and resources regarding all aspects of funeral service, including consumer complaints. If an NFDA member is involved in a dispute, options include using NFDA’s Code of Professional Conduct enforcement process. Call 800-228-6332 to speak with a Funeral Service Help Line representative.

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 most states some form of public aid allowance is available from either the state, county, city or a combination. Most funeral directors are aware of these various benefits and know how to obtain them for the indigent. However, funeral directors often absorb costs above and beyond what is provided by agencies to insure the deceased a respectable burial.

What should I do if the death occurs in the middle of the night or on the weekend?

We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Will someone come right away?

If you request immediate assistance, yes. If the family wishes to spend a short time with the deceased to say good bye, it is acceptable. They will come when the time is right for you.

If a loved one dies out of state , can the local Funeral Home still help?

Yes, we recommend calling us first. We will arrange with an out-of-state colleague to assist you on our behalf. This prevents your having to pay two full service charges.

So, I’ve decided on cremation. Can I still have a funeral or a viewing?

Is it true that one of the prime times for a burglary can be when you are attending a funeral of a loved one?

It has happened in some parts of the country, and you should take precautions if you have the slightest idea this could happen to you. You might have a friend or neighbor stay in your home or notify local law enforcement agencies of your absence.

Why should I make pre-arrangements for my own funeral?

There are almost as many explanations to preplan a funeral as there are people requesting them. Some, particularly those who are alone, might want the assurance of a funeral and burial which meet their personal beliefs, standards or lifestyle. Others feel a responsibility to assist survivors by arranging approximate funeral and burial cost guidelines. Still others have moved to distant places, or maintain both summer and winter residences, and they may want to make sure that certain recommendations are heeded as to where the funeral and burial or other final disposition will take place.

Did you go to school to learn funeral service?

Yes. In Virginia, we are required to complete 2 years of schooling and 18 months of an apprenticeship. Following these requirements, a state and a national exam must be passed to become a licensed funeral director. Continuing education has always been a hallmark at Adams-Green Funeral Home, and all of our funeral directors continue to attend many seminars and courses.

(Courtesy of Adams-Green Funeral Home – Herndon, Virginia)