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What is a "mortuary" or "funeral home"?

Funeral Homes

Dan Redmond (Cemetery and Funeral Inspector, California Department of Consumer Affairs ) gives expert video advice on: What services do most funeral homes offer?; Do I have to embalm the body before burial or cremation? and more...

What is a "mortuary" or "funeral home"?

A mortuary or a funeral home is the building where bodies are prepared, funeral services are held, merchandise is sold and your arrangements are made. Most of the time, mortuaries have a chapel where they can hold a funeral service. Funeral homes usually have a large variety of caskets, urns and other merchandise that you might be interested in. Sometimes they even have a place where you can hold a reception afterwards, so that if you want to meet with the family and friends after the funeral is done, the funeral home can give you a location to be able to do that.

Do funeral homes compete in terms of costs and fees?

Funeral homes do compete with regard to costs and fees, and that's done in several different ways. Often, you will see advertisements in the newspaper. That's one way to look for a funeral home. You may also want to check your yellow pages and look online to see different prices. That's also a competing way that funeral homes compare from one to the other.

What are the most commonly charged fees by funeral homes?

The most commonly charged fee for a funeral home would be your basic service fee, which includes the use of the staff, transportation of the body to the actual funeral home and transportation of the body from the funeral home to a church or cemetery. Most funeral homes will also sell you a casket. You don't have to buy the casket from the funeral home, but that's another product that they do offer, along with any other memorialization, product or service that you want in conjunction with your actual funeral.

What services do most funeral homes offer?

Funeral homes offer a variety of services, everything from the traditional service which would be the actual service in the chapel or church and then the transportation of the body to the cemetary followed by the facilitation of the actual interment at the cemetary. But they also have other services that are more simple and less costly like direct cremation and direct burial. These are funereal services where the family is normally not present. Direct cremation would be done at the convenience of the funeral home rather than the family. The same process takes place with direct burial. This way the family is not involved and it is a little less costly as the funeral home can actually set their own timeframe for doing those sorts of things.

What is a "traditional, full-service funeral"?

A traditional, full service funeral is where the body is picked up from the place where the person passed away, brought to the funeral home. The body is prepared, dressed, placed in a casket, brought into a service. There's a service that can be held with all your family and friends present. Again, sometimes they'll have music playing, sometimes they'll have video of the person playing. Then they'll take the body from, and transport the body from the actual funeral establishment to the cemetery and do the interment.

What is "embalming"?

Embalming is a process by which the body is temporarily preserved for viewing purposes. Embalming originally started thousands of years ago. They actually started embalming bodies with salt, or preserving the body with salt. They found this in many archaeological digs in Egypt and throughout ancient interments. It came to the United States around the time of the Civil War. And that was to help slow down the decomposition process, so that people could be taken back to the towns where they came from and buried with their family and friends there. Embalming is now done through arterial injection, with either creams or sprays, and it's to help preserve the body so that there can be a wake or a viewing, and people can see the person, as best they can, from what that person looked like when they were still alive.

Do I have to embalm the body before burial or cremation?

You do not have to embalm the body before cremation or burial. That's a personal choice by either the family or the decease. If they're making a pre-need arrangement, they may choose before death that they want to be embalmed, but that is not something that is required in any way.

What is a "direct burial"?

A direct burial is a burial that takes place usually at the convenience of the funeral home or cemetery. There's usually no witnessing or no service involved. Direct burial is a less expensive way of being able to do an internment and it is quite commonly used.

What is a "direct cremation"?

A direct cremation is a cremation that's done at the convenience of the crematory. There's usually no service for a direct cremation, and so there's very little cost involved with a direct cremation. Direct cremations can be as inexpensive as $500 depending on the area that you're in.

Can a funeral home help me with social security death benefits?

A funeral home can help you with social security benefits. Sometimes they do charge for that service. However, they can only help you with social security benefits up to a certain point. You will need to contact the Social Security Administration on your own to make sure if there's any payments coming to you and that you get those payments directly. You, as the consumer, would need to contact the Social Security Administration yourself.

Can a funeral home help me with veteran death benefits?

A funeral home can help you with veteran death benefits and they do that quite often. They do contact the Veterans' Administration for you and they facilitate all the necessary paperwork and things that need to be done in order for you to see that you get your Veterans' benefits.