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Final Planning Considerations
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In addition to the type of ceremony or funeral to be held, a person must also make a number of other decisions when pre-planning a funeral. For example, a person must decide whether he orshe wants amreligious or secular service. Is there a specific church or synagogue where he or she would like the service to be held? Will a member of the clergy, a friend, or other third party officiate?
A person should also consider the following when pre-planning a funeral:
• the individuals who will assume key roles, such as delivering the eulogy or acting as
• whether any special music, readings, flowers, or other details should be included in the ceremony;
• any specific clothing or jewelry in which he or she wishes to be buried;
• whether survivors should send flowers or make donations to a particular charity in his or her name; and
• the form and content of the obituary notice, including details about his or her family,
education, employment, military service, and membership in organizations.
Choosing a Cemetery
A person must also determine whether he or she prefers burial or cremation. If burial is desired, a person must select a cemetery and purchase a plot for his or her final resting place. If cremation is preferred, a person may choose to have his or her remains buried, scattered, or interred.
When choosing a cemetery, a person should consider the following:
• If family or friends will visit frequently, how easy is the cemetery to reach? Is it aesthetically pleasing?
• Does the cemetery meet a person’s religious requirements for burials?
• What types of markers does the cemetery allow? Some only allow markers that lie flat, or the cemetery may place other restrictions on the size and shape of headstones.
• What types of memorials and flower displays does the cemetery permit?
• How well does the cemetery take care of the property? Does it look well tended?
• Is there an annual fee for upkeep? If so, is it reasonable in light of local costs? Note that some cemeteries include the cost of maintaining the grave in the purchase price of the plot. If it is not included, a separate perpetual care fee must be paid.
Before purchasing a burial plot, a person should be reasonably sure that it will be his or her final resting place. Sometimes, people may move or change their minds after purchasing a burial plot. In other cases, people may later decide to be cremated rather than buried.
In addition, most cemeteries will offer a variety of burial spaces, ranging from single gravesites and family gravesites to mausoleum-crypts and columbarium niches used for the interment of cremated remains. Depending on the cemetery, the details and types of grave markers may also vary. Some cemeteries may have sections that allow flat markers (lawn-level) only, which are generally the least expensive option. Other sections may allow upright monuments on which individual names and dates can be inscribed. A person must therefore think about what type of grave marker he or she would like, along with what epitaph should be engraved.
A person must also select a casket, which can be one of the most expensive parts of a funeral. Most funeral homes will have a number of caskets on display that range in price from several hundred to several thousand dollars. Prices will vary depending on the materials from which the caskets are made, the type of interior fabric, and quality of workmanship. Caskets may be wood or metal, with waterproof seals, interior pockets, and other features. If a body is to be cremated, it is possible to rent a casket to be used for the visitation and/or service.
Grave Liners and Burial Vaults
Most cemeteries also require the purchase of a grave liner or burial vault, although this is not required by state law. A grave liner prevents the soil from sinking in around the casket, and is placed in the grave before the casket is lowered. Many funeral homes also sell liners and vaults in addition to caskets.
There are also many choices to be made in advance if cremation is chosen. For instance, there are numerous types of urns and containers that can be used to hold a person’s cremated remains. Like caskets, urn prices will depend on the craftsmanship and type of materials used. Intricately designed urns made from bronze or marble will cost significantly more than plain urns crafted from wood or ceramic. Note that the type of urn a person chooses may depend in part on whether the remains are to be interred, scattered, or displayed. If a person chooses cremation, he or she should also decide in advance how the remains should be disposed. For example, they may be scattered, kept at home, buried in a cemetery, or stored in a columbarium.
The cost of a funeral largely depends on the choices a person makes before death or those that family members make after death. According to the National Association of Funeral Directors, the average cost of a funeral today is around $6,500. This figure, however, does not include cemetery costs, flowers, acknowledgment cards, obituary notices, catering services, and more, which can easily push the cost well beyond $10,000.
While prices will vary considerably depending on the geographic area and funeral home, a general estimate of the main costs are as follows:
• funeral director’s fee for services—$1,595
• removal/transfer of remains to funeral home—$233
• other preparation of the body—$203
• use of facilities/staff for viewing—$406
• use of facilities/staff for funeral ceremony—$463
• use of a hearse—$251
• use of a service car/van—$120
• basic memorial printed package—$110
Keep in mind that these prices, like the prices for other goods and services, are likely to increase each year due to inflation. From 1996 to 2006, for example, the average cost of a funeral increased by 9 percent each year. As the following table shows, the cost of an adult funeral has been increasing every year since 1960. Note that the costs shown do not include a burial container, cemetery plot, monument or marker costs, or miscellaneous charges such as flowers and obituaries.
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