Frequently Asked Questions
Since death and funerals are not topics we easily discuss, suddenly having to deal with these issues can be difficult, if not frightening. Learning some simple facts can ease fears and clear up myths and misinformation. We have compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions about funerals so that you can have the information you need to feel more comfortable with the funeral experience.
My loved one just passed away. What do I do?
First, death must be officially pronounced by someone with the authority to do so. If the death occurred in your home, unattended by medical personnel, an official such as the sheriff or county coroner must be called to your home to officially pronounce death. If your loved one was terminally ill and under hospice care, the hospice nurse is usually authorized to make the official pronouncement. When a death occurs in a hospital, the doctor will pronounce death. Once death is officially pronounced you must contact the funeral home to arrange for the removal of the deceased body.
How soon should I contact the funeral home?
You can call the funeral home as soon as the official pronouncement of death has been made. Most funeral directors are available 24 hours a day, so there is no need to wait for regular business hours. Your conversation with the funeral director will include arranging for removal of the body, as well as, setting an appointment for the family to come into the funeral home to make arrangements.
Who is responsible for making funeral arrangements?
Oftentimes, next of kin, immediate family members and sometimes, close friends, wish to participate in planning the funeral of their loved one. While their input is usually taken into consideration, the official responsibility falls on the person with the legal authority to sign the authorization for the funeral service. This person may be the Executor of the will, or a designated next of kin. It is important to understand that signing the authorization for the funeral service means accepting the financial responsibility for the funeral.
I heard that embalming is required by law. Is this true?
Embalming is not a legal requirement and can only be performed with the permission of the family. The funeral director will usually ask for that permission during the first phone call. The purpose of embalming is to disinfect and preserve the body. Disinfection helps protect the public from possible exposure to viral and bacterial infection. Preservation allows for extending the time the funeral services can be scheduled. In this way, relatives living at a distance can more easily attend, or the deceased can be transported to a distant location via air or ground, for final disposition. Embalming is also essential for achieving a natural appearance of the deceased. This is helpful in achieving a positive psychological impact on family and friends viewing their loved one for the last time.
If I chose cremation does this mean I won’t be able to have a funeral?
Most funeral homes offer a wide variety of funeral options, combined with cremation, designed to meet your personal preferences and financial and religious considerations. For example, funeral services can occur before or after the cremation has taken place. Families can opt for a full service with casket-ed viewing prior to cremation or a memorial service with or without the presence of the urn containing the cremated remains. It’s just a matter of talking to your Funeral Director to make your wishes known.
Does the Funeral Director also handle the arrangements for the cemetery?
In most cases, you will be required to make separate arrangements with the cemetery where the final disposition will take place. Once the arrangements are made, the Funeral Director will coordinate with the cemetery to conduct the burial or entombment. The same holds true for the burial of a cremation urn in a cemetery plot or urn garden.
We have moved and our family plot is in another state. What do we do?
It is common that people wish to be returned to their hometowns and interred at their hometown cemetery or entombed in the family crypt. Most funeral homes are experienced with making these type of arrangements. In addition to planning the local funeral, you will have to select a funeral home or mortuary in your hometown to receive the deceased and complete the burial arrangements. Once you have made this selection, your local funeral director will make arrangements for transporting the deceased after the local funeral, and will contact the receiving funeral home to coordinate the details and confirm that the family’s instructions and wishes are carried out.
How much does a funeral cost?
The cost of a funeral will be determined by you and your family as you make your selections from three basic areas: professional service fees, casket/urn cost, and disbursements. The funeral director should present you with a General Price List. You will notice that some costs are basic to every funeral. However, you will also be presented with a wide range of funeral services and additional items from which to choose. Use the price list to guide your selections and prevent your emotions from taking over. It’s important that you stay in line with the family or estate budget.
Doesn’t Social Security pay for my funeral costs?
Social Security pays a one-time, lump-sum death benefit in the amount of $255, to the surviving spouse or a dependent child.
How many death certificates will I need and where do I get them?
A death certificate is a legal document required to conclude the business of your loved one. If the deceased had a will, trust, checking or savings accounts not held jointly (1 for each account), certificates of deposit not held jointly, safety deposit box, stocks or bonds (1 for each corporation), insurance policies (1 for each company), credit cards and transfer of real and personal property not held jointly you will have to present a certified copy to those entities responsible for settling these accounts. You will also need copies to file for union benefits, Social Security benefits, Veteran’s benefits, and Welfare benefits. In most cases, photocopies will not be accepted. The cost of an official death certificate in Georgia is $25.00 and $5.00 for additional copies. Your funeral director will be responsible for ordering these copies at the time of funeral arrangement and can usually have them for you within 10 to 15 working days.It is wise to order a few additional copies to meet any unexpected contingencies, such as discovering an insurance policy or bank account that no one knew about. Ordering certified copies a month or two after the funeral can sometimes result in delays of up to six weeks.
What other items should I bring when making arrangements?
If possible, take some time at home with your family to draft a summary of the contents. Be sure to include the correct spelling of family, friends, medical support and locations to be mentioned in the text. Include education, hobbies, employment and life achievements (including military), as well as addresses for donations. Also, you may desire a special poem, religious verse or quote. Write or type all of the above as legible as possible, thus, preventing translation errors.
Bring the best 4 or 5 photos for the obituary (if desired) and memorial website or funeral program. One of them should be a (current) photograph for the Funeral Director who will be preparing your loved one for viewing. This photo will greatly assist the professional as he/she applies makeup and styles the hair.
Bring the information required for the death certificate. Although every state has different requirements, these are the basics: The deceased person’s legal name; Social Security Number; date of birth and date of death; birthplace (city and state, territory or foreign country); residence and Zip Code (city and county); marital status at time of death; surviving spouse’s name; military service; legal names of the decedent’s father and mother (including the mother’s maiden name), their birthplaces (state, territory, foreign country); the decedent’s usual occupation (type of work done during most of his/her working life); the kind of business; education info (what best describes the highest level of schooling completed).
Military documents. You will need to bring the “Military Separation” papers (i.e. the DD214 separation papers). If you cannot locate them, you will at least need the military service number. Visit the VA website for more information. An honorably discharged veteran is entitled to a flag, a memorial marker and military honors.
Clothes for your loved one. Bring a suit, uniform, dress, or whatever attire would be appropriate. Don’t forget the underwear, including socks and slippers! Since funerals are less traditional these days, you may choose something less formal. I have seen farmers dressed in coveralls with plaid shirts and athletes clad in nice jogging outfits.
Makeup. Bring a special color of lipstick, eye shadow, cologne, perfume, nail polish, etc. Jewelry. If you want the jewelry back after the service, be sure to tell the Funeral Director to remove it and return it to you. False teeth, glasses, prosthetics.
Special items. You may want a special photo or a particular blanket. Children may want to participate by drawing a picture or placing a small item in the casket. Others may want to include a poem or a letter.
Special tributes. Families sometimes want to add that personal touch by exhibiting Mom’s quilts or hand-crafted jewelry. If Dad was an avid fisherman, you may want to bring photos of his catches etc.