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Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Do you have to have a funeral director to bury the deceased?
A: In most states, family members may bury their own dead – although regulations vary. A Funeral Director is commonly trusted because most people find it too difficult on their own to handle the responsibilities for the details and legal matters surrounding a death.
Q: How do funeral directors work with a family when they are caring for someone in a hospice?
A: Most hospice programs recognize the value of funerals and have established communication and working relationships with Funeral Directors. The National Hospice Organization and its standards document recognizes the significant role of the Funeral Director in collaborating with the hospice team at the time of death. Funeral Directors have become an integral part of hospice care. When you consider the philosophy of hospice and funeral service, it is clear why funeral service is a "natural extension" of hospice care. In fact, our Funeral Directors and hospice caregivers typically work closely in order to meet the total needs of families. Our goal is to make certain that at no time will family members be without support.
Q: Why have a public viewing?
A: Many grief specialists believe that viewing helps begin the healing process, as it allows the bereaved to recognize the reality of death. Viewing is encouraged for children, as long as the process is explained and the activity is voluntary.
Q: What is the purpose of embalming?
A: Embalming sanitizes and preserves the body, slows 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 sufficient time to arrange and participate in the type of service most comforting to them.
Q: Does a body have to be embalmed, according to law?
A: No. Most regions, however, require embalming if the death is caused by a reportable contagious disease, 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.
Q: What is a memorial service?
A: Much like a funeral, a memorial service celebrates the life of the deceased. The only difference is that there is no body present at a memorial service. In recent years, more and more people choose memorials, especially those whose loved ones have been cremated and remains have already been disposed. Often, in lieu of a body, there is a display of photos showing moments from the deceased's life.
Q: Has the cost of funerals increased significantly?
A: Funeral costs have increased no faster than the consumer price index for other consumer items. Today, an average funeral costs about $5,000.
Q: What contributes to the cost of a funeral?
A: Funerals are no more expensive than other major life events such as weddings and births. However, happy life events typically do not raise much sensitivity about cost. Funeral homes operate 24-hours a day, seven days a week. It is a labor-intensive business with extensive costs for facilities and real estate (viewing rooms, chapels, limousines, hearses, etc.). These expenses are factored into the cost of a funeral. Funeral costs include more than just caskets. They include the services of a Funeral Director who handles legal documents and makes many detailed arrangements on your behalf. Your Funeral Director will assist you in dealing with doctors, ministers, florists, and newspapers, with death certificates and legal items, and seeing to all other necessary details.
Q: What should I do if the death occurs in the middle of the night or on the weekend?
A: Our Funeral Directors are available 24-hours a day, seven days a week. You are encouraged to call as soon as you are ready after the death occurs.
Q: If I call you, will someone come right away?
A: Yes, If you request immediate assistance. If the family wishes to spend a short time with the deceased, that is also fine.
Q: If a loved one dies out of the state, can your Funeral Directors still help?
A: Yes, we can assist you with out-of-state arrangements, either to transfer the remains from our location to another state or from another state back to our location.
Q: In addition to funeral services, what other pre-planning issues should I consider?
A: When you consider and express your personal wishes concerning the end of life and death care, you should also understand Advance Directives.
Q: What is a living will?
A: A living will is a type of advance directive in which you put in writing your wishes about medical treatment should you not be unable to communicate at the end of life. Your right to accept or refuse treatment is protected by constitutional and common law.
Q: What information do I need to know when I call a funeral home after a death?
A: The following information will allow a funeral home to begin preparing for services:
- The name of cemetery where the deceased will be buried
- Clothing will be provided by you
- The minister's name who will perform the service
- The pallbearers and relationship to deceased
- The music to be played at the service
- Chapel or church name and location
- The type of flowers desired for service.
Q: What can be done prior to death occurring?
A: Record your wishes, advise family members and even prearrange with your funeral director.
Q: What should one do when a death occurs?
A: A spouse, next of kin or legal representative generally can make arrangements for disposition of the deceased. The normal sequence of events for handling a death is as follows: Contact law enforcement official if the death was unattended. Death must be pronounced by a coroner, medical examiner, or attending physician. Contact relatives. Locate deceased's letter of direction, prepaid funeral contract, insurance policy or will. Contact a funeral director. When a death occurs out of state or country, it is advisable that you immediately contact a funeral director in your local area who will know the requirements that must be met, as well as help prevent duplication of service costs.
Q: What are the available methods of disposition?
A: Human remains can be buried, entombed, cremated, or donated for scientific study.
Q: What is embalming and its purpose?
A: Embalming is the use of chemicals, internally and externally, to disinfect and temporarily preserve the body for open casket viewing and/or for the removal of the body to distant destinations.
Q: Does the law require that a dead human be embalmed?
A: No, Texas law does not require embalming at any time. Most common carriers will require that a body be embalmed prior to shipping and the laws of the destination state will apply. Because of the rapid deterioration of a body after death, Texas Health Services Rules require that bodies held for over 24 hours or in transit must be embalmed, refrigerated, or encased in a leak and odor proof container.
Q: How are remains donated?
A: Donations of human bodies to medical facilities can be made either directly through a funeral establishment or by contacting the: Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine Department of Anatomy Anatomical Services Coordinator 3601 4th Street Lubbock, Texas 79430 806-743-2700 Texas Tech University Health Science Center will only pay for the transportation of remains to their medical school. All other services selected will be paid by the family, which are provided by the funeral home.
Q: Can I donate my organs with out donating my entire body?
A: Yes. You may leave written or oral instructions regarding your wishes.
Q: Can I change my mind about donating my body or my organs after I commit myself?
A: Yes. Prior to death, a person can revoke his or her donation by destroying or canceling the instructions or by alternate instructions to the next of kin or the person designated by written instrument.
Q: What is meant by immediate disposition?
A: Immediate disposition is the interment, entombment, or cremation of the remains without ceremonies. Immediate disposition usually includes transfer of the remains to the funeral home, preparation and filing of the necessary documents and transportation to the ceremony or transportation to and from the crematory.
Q: Can a body be cremated immediately following death?
A: Texas law prohibits cremating any dead human body within 48 hours after death. The County Medical Examiner or a Justice of the Peace in counties without Medical Examiners may waive this time requirement in writing.
Q: What is done with cremated remains?
A: Cremated remains may be disposed of in a number of ways: privately scattered, scattered at sea, scattered by airplane in unpopulated areas, interred in a cemetery, placed in a niche in a columbarium, or kept by the family in their home.
Q: Can a family bury its own dead without using a licensed funeral director?
A: A statement of death and a death certificate are legally required. Generally, local ordinances or deed restrictions prohibit burials within city limits. Check with the State Health Department and local zoning authorities for applicable laws.
Q: How do people select a funeral director?
A: Almost always by reputation or availability. The way a funeral director serves families is readily known in most communities. If you need a funeral director and for some reason do not know one, the reference of a relative or friend who has been served satisfactorily is one wise way to make a decision. The best way is to know in advance whom you would select and then visit the funeral home, examine the facilities and ask about the prices and understand the ways in which your needs will be served. Consider all alternatives and consult several different firms/organizations to compare costs. After determining where to call, be prepared to ask questions concerning all aspects of funeral arrangements. Prior to making funeral arrangements, you will need the following information: Full name of deceased Occupation Date of birth Place of birth Social security number Residence address Spouse's name (maiden name) Father's name and mother's maiden name Place of burial or disposition Discharge papers, if veteran.
Q: How may I learn about funeral costs?
A: Telephone Inquiries.
Funeral establishments are required to give current retail price information by telephone.
You may want to follow up with a visit to the establishment. Any consumer entering an establishment and making inquiries is entitled to the retail price list. By law, you must be presented a retail price list itemizing the costs of funeral services and the merchandise for sale from a funeral director. These retail prices, appearing on a printed or typewritten list which the customer may keep, must specify at least the charges for the following items, provided they are available for purchase through the establishment:
- Forwarding or receiving remains, to or from another funeral home and a list of services provided for the stated price.
- The price range for direct cremations, including separate prices for cremations with alternative containers, cremations with a purchaser supplied container, and a description of the services and container included in each price.
- The price range for immediate burials, including separate prices for immediate burials with alternative containers or caskets, immediate burials with a purchaser supplied container, and a description of the services and container or casket included in each price
- Transfer of remains to funeral home
- Other preparation of the body
- Use of facilities and staff for viewing, funeral ceremony, memorial service, and/or graveside service
- Outer burial containers such as vaults, grave liners, and boxes. Such outer enclosures are not required by law, but may be required by the cemetery.
The retail price list must include the name, address, and phone number of the establishment, the effective date of the price list and a notice stating: "You may choose only the items you desire. If you are charged for items you did not specifically request, we will explain the reason for the charges on the written memorandum. Please note that there may be charges for items such as cemetery fees, flowers and newspaper notices."
After completing all funeral arrangements, you must be given a written funeral purchase agreement, signed by the funeral director who assisted you, which lists the items you selected from the general price list and the cost of each item.
Choosing a Casket
The price of each casket must be stated and varies depending on the type. Caskets are not required by law; however there may be cemetery or mausoleum restrictions regarding caskets and outer burial containers or vaults. The law does not require a casket for cremation but some type of container such as a cardboard box or canvas pouch is usually required by the crematory.
Caskets are constructed from various materials including steel, copper, bronze, and wood. The only warranties express or implied, granted in connection with casket products are the express written warranties, if any, extended by the manufacturers. There is no direct relationship between the protective features of the casket and the preservation of the body.
Q: Is there a law that prohibits funeral directors from advertising?
A: No, but consumer protection statutes require that all advertising to be factual and clear in content. Any misrepresentations should be reported to the Texas Funeral Service Commission, the Attorney Generals Consumer Protection Division and your local Better Business Bureau.
Q: Is there a law that prohibits funeral directors from solicitation?
A: Yes. Solicitation means any direct or indirect contact with the family, next of kin, or one who has custody of a person who is deceased or near death for the purposes of securing the right to provide funeral services or merchandise for the deceased or the person near death.
Q: Should I consider a prepaid funeral contract?
A: Prepaid funeral contracts are governed by Chapter 154 of the Texas Finance Code and are under the jurisdiction of the Texas Department of Banking. Such contracts are being marketed extensively and offer the opportunity to permit a person to fully consider his or her needs and wishes and control the cost and nature of funeral services desired. The contracts vary in terms and coverage and should, like any other purchase involving a substantial sum of money, be reviewed carefully before execution. Texas law requires that seller of contracts for prepaid funeral arrangements must first apply and obtain a permit from the Texas Department of Banking. Do not contract with any seller who does not have such a permit, and make certain that the proposed contract meets the minimum Texas legal requirements, including that a trust has been created for the proceeds from prepaid contracts through a contract of insurance with an insurance company licensed in Texas, or that such trust fund is established in a bank or savings and loan association operated under the provisions of the Texas Trust Act.
Q: Where does my money go?
A: A deposit fund is established with a financial institution approved by the Texas Department of Banking, or a fund is created by a life insurance or annuity contract with an insurance company authorized to do business in the State of Texas. If a life insurance or annuity contract is used, the person who sells you the policy and the insurance company must be licensed by the Texas Department of Insurance. Ask to see his/her license. In addition, you are entitled to receive a copy of the policy and should be sure that you understand the benefits, limitation and exclusions. You can call the Texas Department of Insurance at 1-800-252-3439 or 512-463-6501 for license information on both agents and companies or for assistance in interpreting policy language.
Q: What if I change my mind or want my money back?
A: In a deposit fund arrangement, the purchaser can cancel the contract prior to maturity and receive a refund in accordance with the terms of the contract. If you have a life insurance or annuity arrangement, you may receive only the cash surrender value, if any, as indicated in the insurance policy or annuity and the prepaid contract. Read and understand the cancellation language in the policy or annuity and in the prepaid contract.
Q: What if I want to change funeral homes?
A: If the prepaid funeral contract is in a deposit fund you may have to cancel your contract and make other arrangements. If the prepaid contract is funded by a policy of insurance you may be able to cancel the contract and keep the insurance policy allowing you to choose another funeral establishment. Talk to the seller of your prepaid contract and the funeral director of the funeral home you wish to use. Make sure all parties are in agreement and be sure to get a copy of any such agreement in writing.
Q: If death occurs before the prepaid contract is paid in full, will any additional payment be required?
A: On a deposit arrangement, any unpaid balance would become due at the time of the funeral. Depending on the type of insurance policy or annuity contract used to fund the prepaid funeral contract, expenses may not be paid in full. If you are unsure, question the seller and/or the Texas Department of Banking or the Texas Department of Insurance.
Q: Will my contract cover all my final expenses?
A: You are entitled to receive all items shown on the contract at no additional charge, if the terms of the contract have been met. There may be additional charges for items that are not part of the prepaid contract. These may include cemetery fees, such as lowering equipment, opening and closing the grave, and burial vaults. You should discuss with the seller items that are not covered.
Q: If a funeral home goes out of business or misappropriates prepaid funds; what will happen?
A: It would depend on whether the funeral home was a licensed seller. If the funeral home held a valid permit when the prepaid funeral contracts were sold, the Department of Banking would take over the contracts and find a subsequent provider. The Prepaid Funeral Guaranty Fund would cover any shortages to the fund. The purchaser would not suffer a financial loss. However, if the funeral home was an unlicensed seller, the Department of Banking will take actions in coordination with the local District Attorney to try to recover the prepaid funds through restitution. The purchaser can suffer a financial loss in this situation because the Prepaid Funeral Guaranty Fund cannot be used.