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Funeral Arrangements and Memorial Services

To a newly widowed person, these first steps can seem frightfully difficult. Suddenly, you are faced with some very important, and often urgent, decisions.

Funerals and Burials are Among the Most Expensive Purchases

* In 2001 (latest year figures are available), the average cost of a traditional adult funeral was $5,160 (without any extras).
* Burial costs are an additional $2,000 or more.
* In-ground burial can add another $2,400 to total expenses.
* Flowers, obituary notices, acknowledgment cards, burial liners or vaults, and special transportation can add an additional $1,000.
* Funeral and burial costs combined can easily reach as much as $10,000.
The Funeral Rule

The Funeral Rule requires funeral homes to provide price lists of available options (general services, caskets, outer burial containers). Homes must disclose prices by telephone and offer lists for review at each facility. You should call or visit at least three funeral homes and cemeteries to compare prices. With three lists, you can more accurately assess the total costs and be able to compare.

What is on the Price List?

* Funeral director services for initial conference, consultations, paperwork, and overhead. This fee is added to all bills.
* Transportation of the body to the funeral home and to the place of final disposition.
* Care of the body, including embalming and "casketing," or dressing the body.
* Use of facilities for a viewing, wake, or visitation, and the funeral or memorial ceremony at the funeral home.
* Other options: purchasing flowers, preparing obituary notices, or providing music.
Alternative arrangements: cremation or immediate burial where the body is interred without embalming, usually in a simple container and no viewing or ceremony with the body present.
Caskets and Outer Burial Containers:

A casket is the single most expensive item in a traditional funeral. Traditionally, caskets were sold only by funeral homes, but now cemeteries and third parties sell caskets, even on the Internet. Available in many styles and prices, caskets may be made from metal, wood, fiberglass, or plastic.

Under the federal Funeral Rule, a funeral home cannot charge extra if you provide your own casket from an outside source. No casket is required for a direct cremation, immediate burial, or when donating one's body to science.

Most cemeteries require the use of a grave liner or vault. These outer burial containers surround the casket in the grave to prevent the ground from sinking as settling occurs over time. In some locations, both funeral homes and cemeteries sell vaults and liners. In some areas, it is possible, and less expensive, to purchase an outer burial container from a third party.

Veteran Funerals

If the deceased was a veteran, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides small burial allowances. All veterans can receive a burial flag and burial in national cemeteries. Burial at no charge may be possible in an area where a national Veterans Cemetery is located. Call 800-555-1212 for the toll-free number of your Regional Veterans Affairs office or visit their Web site.

Remember that you don't need a costly funeral to show your love or respect. Make arrangements that are best for you and your family.

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