Many of us have attended a funeral service for a family member, friend or co-worker, however, odds are most of us have not had to make funeral arrangements. Today with people living longer, the average age of a person making funeral arrangements is over fifty. One would think that the person making funeral decisions is the surviving spouse, but it’s becoming more the norm for the adult children to make the arrangements. Why? Because the widow or widower’s decision-making ability has become compromised due to their own declining health. The spouse may have full comprehension of their partner’s death and even be able to articulate the type of funeral service desired, however, the lack of clarity revolves around financial decisions. Understanding the financial obligations, along with any insurance claims is where the major confusion occurs, therefore it’s always best to have another family member or advocate present. In this conversation, you will learn what takes place at a cremation service arrangement conference. The next article will discuss the traditional burial conference; they are two very different discussions.
If you haven’t downloaded the e-book 5-legal-requirements-before-cremation, now is the time. All too often, people think that the cremation itself takes place once a body is brought into a funeral home’s care. Let’s debunk this myth immediately! To be clear, a body can NOT be cremated until numerous checks and balances take place and it all begins at the arrangement consultation.
Below are the seven items that must be addressed in a cremation arrangement conference.
- Address questions and concerns.
- Share service options.
- Adhere to the Federal Trade Commission requirements.
- Gather the required information and signatures for permits and certificates.
- Explain the cremation process.
- Set the expectation when the cremated remains will be returned.
- Discuss payment options.
When families try to by-pass this process by doing on-line arrangements and not talking to their end of life provider is where errors happen and consumer satisfaction levels decline. While the process may seem straightforward, it’s not. To quote an age-adage “Things are not always as simple as they appear!”
- Address questions and concerns
Shortly after death, your funeral home will contact you to schedule a time to meet. During this conversation, you may be asked to bring in insurance documents, possibly clothing or even photographs. This is the time for you to begin asking questions or start gathering a list of questions so you can have them answered when you meet. It should go without saying that there is no question that is out of bounds. While this may be a first for you, it’s not for your cremation provider. They will be able to answer most everything, if not, they will know what direction to point you in.
- Share service options
There is no such thing as a “simple cremation”. The definition of a cremation service has a very broad range. Don’t be offended when you are asked, “and what does a cremation service mean to you?” or “what does that look like to you?”. Why? In the funeral service profession, a cremation service or simple cremation has many different meanings depending on you talk with. To give you an example, listed below are the many types of cremation service offerings that most places provide.
- A no-cost cremation option
Many cremation providers work with a company called “Medcure”. This is a third-party organ harvesting company who will pay the funeral home for their services and sell the harvested organs for profit. If a family agrees to this type of end disposition, the remains that are left after harvesting, are then cremated and returned to the family. The advantage to this type of option is that is no cost incurred to the family related to transportation, arrangements and the cremation itself. Medcure does have the right to reject an individual based on the cause of death or condition of the body.
A body donation to a teaching university is often confused as a cremation option. When a body is donated to science, after a period of time, the unused body parts are cremated and returned to next of kin. It’s important to understand two things about this type of cremation option.
- There are costs involved – this typically is not a “free” service.
- A body can be rejected; therefore, the family must have a backup option.
- Cremation with the body present for viewing. (Commonly referred to as a Rental Package)
Many families who prefer the aspect of a “traditional service”, meaning viewing of the body, a visitation and a service often select this. The only thing that is different about this type of option is that instead of the deceased being buried in a casket at a cemetery, they are cremated after the service. The advantage to this is cost. It’s referred to as a “Rental Package” because the casket itself is can be reused multiple times. There is a container inside the casket, that contained the body. It’s removed and cremated with the deceased. When choosing this option, the next of kin must give permission to embalm. Why? When there is a public viewing can become a health and safety issue.
Being buried in a casket at a cemetery, they are cremated after the service. The advantage to this is cost. It’s referred to as a “Rental Package” because the casket itself is can be reused multiple times. There is a container inside the casket, that contained the body. It’s removed and cremated with the deceased. When choosing this option, the next of kin must give permission to embalm. Why? When there is a public viewing it becomes a health and safety issue.
- Memorial Service / Gathering
This is when there is a service and or gathering for the deceased without the body present. This provides a time for sharing and celebrating a life lived.
- Immediate or Direct Cremation
This is exactly what is say. There is no service provided and the body is cremated after meeting with the family.
- Adhere to the Federal Trade Commission requirements.
In the arrangement conference, before any discussion of price can be addressed by the funeral home, it is required by the FTC that the director/arranger present what is referred to as a general price list. This usually will come in two forms.
- A menu looking version that itemizes each service and product
- A packaged price version that already is bundled.
- Gather the required information and signatures for permits and certificates
This is the most critical portion of the arrangement conference. All information is gathered now becomes a legal document. This information must be accurate the first time, to generate a death certificate and cremation permit in a timely fashion. These documents literally drive everything!
- Explain the cremation process.
Cremation doesn’t just happen. There are numerous checks and balances that must take place before the cremation can occur. If any of the processes are not completed, the cremation can be delayed. Know that you have the right to physically be present to witness the cremation process. If you aren’t offered this opportunity – just ask. Transparency is everything! At minimum ask the following question, “Who will be conducting the cremation?” Why? Many funeral homes outsource the cremation to a 3rd party provider. This is not a bad thing, but you should know who will be conducting the cremation and where they are located. If you want to be present or want to tour the crematory this should be arranged. If there is any hesitation, you have the right to select another cremation provider.
- Set the expectation when the cremated remains will be returned and to who.
As discussed above, there are standards and protocols that must take place before a body can be cremated. Once the cremation is completed, not just anyone can stop in and pick up the cremated remains. In today’s world with blended families, it’s imperative that the funeral home know who they can release the cremated remains too. Just because you are a son, sister, mother or father does not give you the legal authority to have an individual released onto your care. If the remains are not to be returned to the immediate next of kin/informant – you will be asked who the funeral home can release the remains too. The same goes for the separation of ashes and distributing them to friends or family members. The funeral provider must have the names and the written consent to separate the cremated remains.
- Discuss payment options
Once all the above steps have completed, now is where you are asked how you intend to pay. Most places expect payment in full upfront unless the service was pre-paid, or the family produces an enforce life insurance contract and assigns it to the funeral home for them to receive payment first with the balance remaining sent to the policy beneficiary. If you are unable to handle this – now is the time to speak up! Do not leave without talking this through. A good funeral home will work with you, however, there are some fees that must be paid up front. Many times, the funeral home must pay out of their pocket and front costs for the permits and even the crematory.
In closing, the average cremation arrangement conference at minimum is an hour if you are sitting face to face, sometimes longer. If you complete the biographical information online, it will save some time, but remember everything becomes a legal document and if your intent is to save a few nickels, we want to get the information right the first time.
Please follow my blog “Ask Jodi” at www.jodiclock.com. Here you will find trusted answers that revolve around tough topics for end-of-life issues for people and pets.
If you found this helpful, please download an expanded version of the “The 7 Step Cremation Process ” .