Here are some answers to frequently asked questions at Williford Funeral Home. If you don’t find the answer to your question we invite you to contact us and we’ll be more than happy to answer your questions personally.
How do I choose where to be buried?
Where you want to be buried is limited based upon your local and state laws. For the most part you must select a designated cemetery. In some cases you can attempt to get a family cemetery designated, but you must discuss that with your local county and state (and that should be done well before death).
You should think about five main things when thinking about your burial. First, look at the cemetery and how it is kept up. This will tell you a lot about how the people that manage it will keep it in the future. Along with this, ask if it is a “perpetual care” cemetery. This means that money is set aside in an account that the cemetery does not have much access to (they can get a small percentage for upkeep). Think about where the cemetery is. Does your family have easy access to it to come visit? Think about the price and the regulations of the cemetery (some cemeteries require the purchase of merchandise, others require the purchase of a certain kind of marker…ask!), and finally, if you are a religious person, you might need to think about how your religion will help you decide location or direction of burial.
What are my options if I choose to be buried?
The basic options that you have are where you want to be buried, how long after death (within reason) you want to be buried, the ceremony that is performed, and the merchandise that is used.
Why do I need to purchase a burial vault?
A burial vault is an outer enclosure that the casket goes inside to protect the casket. This is not required by law in North Carolina (and to the best of my knowledge any other state), BUT most cemeteries require it.
Why? Well, because the vault protects against the ground caving in on the casket. The amount of dirt as well as mowers, etc. that are on top of a grave at any given time is extremely heavy, and that will cause the grave to collapse. Some burial vaults will protect against the elements.
Some have asked why you really need it at all. We have to remember that “need” is purely relative. All we really need is to have our body placed below ground (see Green Funerals). If none of this matters to you at all then I would highly recommend that you think about a “natural burial.
What are my options for a casket?
There are many different options. Your basic choice is between wood or metal.
With wood you can select hard woods and soft woods. When selecting a wood casket look for the design of the casket and the color.
With metal caskets you can select steel, stainless steel, bronze, and copper. With steel you can further divide it by the thickness. You can select 20, 18, and 16 gauge. The bigger the number the thinner the metal. The thicker the steel or the better the metal, the longer the casket will last; however, perhaps the biggest difference in caskets is the way in which casket companies design the better metal caskets.
When looking at a metal casket, look at whether the handles move or are fixed, the corners (rounded or squared), the material inside the casket, the color, and the hardware. Also look for other features such as “memory” drawers, removable corner pieces, cap panels (the panel above the person in the casket) with different designs. Also, there are larger caskets.
You must also know that no casket “seals.” Some caskets are “Gasketed” meaning they have a rubber gasket to help protect the body. Many countries require a gasketed casket if we ship a body. This is however up to the individual as to whether this is important.
How do you figure out how much a funeral will cost?
First and foremost, you need to get a price list from the funeral home. Second get EVERYTHING in writing. This is a hard time, but make sure you get a signed contract with all services and merchandise listed. This is a legal contract that binds the funeral home and you to an agreement.
So if you want to figure the price you have to figure three different things. First, you wil be charged for services. You might get charged for: removal of the body, embalming (if you agree to it), dressing/getting the body ready, visitation, transportation costs (family car, funeral coach, flower vehicle, etc.), funeral service, any transportation costs (if the funeral or removal is far away from the funeral home)….
Merchandise is usually the thing that makes the funeral expensive. I know here our cost for merchandise has skyrocketed in the last year. The casket and vault can easily add at least $3000 and often add $4000-$5000 and up. It all depends on what you select.
The last thing that will cost are cemetery charges. If you haven’t purchased a burial plot, you will have to purchase one. They range around here from five hundred dollars and up. You also, however, have opening/closing fees. These also range. With the cemetery you also have to think about what kind of marker you want to have. These can be astronomical in price (see the topic on this subject). In any event (disclosure–remember I own a funeral home) I always tell people that they should purchase as much away from the cemetery as possible. Your local funeral home will be able to sell you a marker and vault for much less than the cemetery because its part, not all of their business (we sell them at a much lower margin than our local cemeteries simply because I don’t try to make my living selling them).
I am doing research on cremation, is cremation more popular than burial?
Cremation rates vary drastically based upon where you happen to live. This is due to many different reasons. Religious beliefs, cultural norms, and knowledge and availablity as well as wealth have a lot to do with it.
In our area most people are not cremated. We are in a very traditional community and burial is “just what is done” but our cremation rate last time I checked was somewhere around 15%. This means that of all the services we do, 15% of them are cremation.
This is a bit misleading though. Our cremation charges are extremely cheap compared to other funeral homes. We charge 895.00 for a direct cremation whereas many of the corporate funeral homes charge close to 3000.00 for the same thing, so we have started getting families using us rather than funeral homes in Raleigh. (We are about 15 min south of Raleigh).
I am 31. My father is 55. In my generation I would say that we are much more open to the idea. Dad’s generation is much more likely to be buried, and the statistics bear this out. Like I said above, cremation rates by country and state are a bit misleading. I know that funeral homes in Raleigh have a cremation rate of nearly 50%. This is why they have begun to charge so much for it. They have to to stay in business.
To get better statistics, I would check with funeral homes in your local area that you are doing research on. Tell them what you are doing and ask them. If you are doing macro research on a state or the nation at large, these statistics are provided by health departments in the county and state.
Why should I choose cremation?
Cremation is a personal choice.
You might not like the idea of being buried, you might want to have your/your loved one’s cremains near you, you might think that people spend too much for burial, etc.
If you do choose cremation, remember that it is merely the means of “disposition” of the body. You can still have a regular funeral if you want, still have a visitation/wake, and still have a “regular”/”traditional” experience.
What are the different options for cremation?
Your options are the normal options for services. You can have a normal wake and funeral (with or without the body–with or without the casket open). Remember cremation simply replaces the placement of the body in ground….it doesn’t replace the entire funeral.
Your real options are with the cremains after the body has been cremated. You can place them in the urn, you can place part in an urn and part in “keep sake” urns so different family members can have portions, many companies now have bird baths, garden figures, wind chimes, etc. that can hold cremains, and many people now have necklaces that can hold portions of the cremains.
Also, remember that you can bury cremains the way you can bury a body. You can purchase a relatively inexpensive burial vault that the urn can be placed in and then you can purchase a small marker.
Do I have to be embalmed?
In North Carolina you do not have to be embalmed. Funeral homes might require it if you are to be viewed by the general public, but unless the family expressly says that they body can be embalmed, the funeral home is prohibited by law from embalming. In certain cases, the body can be embalmed if the state requires it (infectious disease), but 99% of the cases you must give permission.
What exactly is a green funeral?
There is much confusion about green funerals. Green means no or minimal impact on the environment. It is impossible to have no impact completely, but with ever action we attempt to leave as little impact on the environment.
First, green means no embalming, no harmful chemicals.
Second, as little merchandise as possible. The construction of caskets, vaults, etc., takes the burning of fossil fuels. This can’t always be done away with as most cemeteries require a burial vault.
(If a burial vault is required, you should ask for a “rough box”–this is a simple concrete structure that till keep the grave from collapsing).
Third, ask for a shroud. The body will be wrapped and lowered into the grave.
This is about as close to a “green” funeral that one can have today outside of natural burial grounds. Discuss these options with your funeral director.
What are my options for a marker for my grave?
Well the type of marker depends on the location of the grave. Some cemeteries do not allow upright markers and some require the purchase of a certain type of marker. For example, some cemeteries require that you purchase a Bronze marker. This must be mounted on granite and thus makes the purchase of the marker expensive.
Either way here are your options:
1) You can go with an upright granite marker. (Again, you have to make sure that the cemetery allows this… if it is a “memorial park” this often means that they don’t). Contrary to what people think, these are actually usually cheaper than bronze flat markers. They have a more “authentic” or historical look and are often what people think about when they think about a cemetery. We have begun bying the granite directly from the quary, which means we can get it for almost 1/4 of what we once were paying, and that allows us to sell it to our families for much less. These provide the most options. You can get any size you want. You can select the size and design of the “die” (the actual upright section). You will also need a “base” (the part the “die” sits on. This is not an “extra” that you are being charged for. This is very necessary. If you don’t have it, the marker will probably lean or fall over. You probably need a base that is at least two inches bigger on each side and you also want (maybe) a longer one than the die to put vases on.
2) Your second option is simply a flat granite base. You can get this engraved, and is definitely the cheapest of traditional options. The major expense (at least for us) is the transport from the quary to us. Usually these run anywhere from 450ish and up.
3) This is the most popular now. Flat granite base with a bronze marker. This is what you see in most cemeteries now. These are also the most expensive. They usually come in 24 x 14 for an individual marker and require a granite base. You can expect (without a vase) these to run at least 1800.00.
There are other options to save you money. We have started telling people they can buy “VA nitch” plates. These are smaller than the traditional markers and require a smaller peice of granite. Also installation charges are much less because most cemeteries charge you by the inch. So they might charge you .58 for every inch. If you have a traditional marker 28×18 (granite base). This means that they would charge you 292.32 for installation, and that usually isn’t the actual placement for the marker… its just their fee for putting it down. The funeral home might then charge you more for the actual installation. If you use a smaller marker then you pay less. If we sell a smaller marker then we actually put it down ourselves rather than paying someone to do it for us.
Last thing… there are some expenses that families forget or overlook. If they buy a bronze marker for a married couple, you often have to buy another death date scroll when the second person dies. Also, you will have to pay for engraving for the death date if you have a double upright.
Always talk about the different options and every expense when you are talking to the person selling it to you.
What is burial insurance?
Burial insurance is an insurance policy that is directly linked to the payment for a funeral. It is good for several reasons.
First, it locks in the price of the funeral at the time that the policy is taken out, meaning that if you come into the funeral home and select the funeral that you want, the total cost of the funeral is computed and then you take out an insurance policy for that amount. If you die in five years or fifty years, the amount of the funeral remains the same and the insurance policy will pay for the funeral. Once you pay the complete amount of the insurance policy whether before the time period or at the established period of time of the insurance policy, you never have to pay another penny for the service and it will pay for the entire funeral.
Second, if you pass away before the policy is paid (after a short period of decreased benefit) the policy will pay the entire amount of your funeral. So if you take out a policy for 10,000 and you are paying over ten years, and you die in the fourth year, the entire funeral will be paid.
Third, your family does not have to choose anything or pay for anything. The funeral home will file the paperwork for you and they will get paid directly.
Fourth, you can take the insurance policy to any funeral home. This means that if something happens at a funeral home that you don’t like or if they go out of business your money will be protected.
How do I pay for a funeral?
You have many choices to pay for a funeral, either for your own or someone else. You can pay at the time someone dies, but there are problems. Most funeral homes will demand that payment be made before services are rendered. This means that you and your family might have to come up with five, six, or even ten thousand dollars right at the moment that you are at your worst time. Funeral Homes often have you find people with various credit cards, ask you to sign a note against your house, car, or any other property, etc. This is extremely painful at a bad time. (At our funeral home, we never do this. It might be bad business, but I can not find it in my heart to sit across the table from someone and say…you have to pay…NOW).
There are several problems with this form of payment. First, you often make bad choices at the time of a death. People spend too much on merchandise thinking that they have to “do right” by the person that has passed away (we see this a lot with corporate funeral homes that actually train their employees how to get people to feel guilty and “buy proof of their love”). This means that you put yourself into too much debt. Second, often the terms are extremely bad. On credit card debt your interest rates are often over 20%. You could loose your home or property.
The second way you can pay for your funeral is through a life insurance policy. This is the usual way that people do pay for their funeral, but there are also problems with this. First, life insurance is for the living. You should always keep life insurance so if you die, your family will not have to change their lifestyle. Usually it is recommended that you take your yearly income and multiply it by the years you have till retirement and that is the amount that you should have (I am not an insurance salesman, so don’t see this as a sales pitch). If you take away money from your life insurance for your funeral then you take away what your family would get. The second problem with this is that often funeral homes will charge you for doing an insurance assignment (we do not do this, but given the delay that we are encountering with insurance companies we have thought about it).
We recommend you consider a burial insurance policy. In any case–and this is important–you should never pay a funeral home directly for a funeral before the time of death. In North Carolina this is illegal.
Should I preplan my own funeral and why?
We firmly believe that everyone should preplan their funeral. We remind everyone that you plan for your retirement, and you aren’t promised that, but you will die. It takes just a few minutes. All you have to do is take out a piece of paper and write down what you want, or user our handy preplanning form. It can be something large or small, it can be a song you want, or a service you just must have. The point is that you let your family know what is important to you.
We face families everyday that have no idea what their family member wanted. It is always a huge relief for the family to have something to build on, even if it is something small.
Sit down with your family, whoever, and take out two peices of paper. If you are in our local community, you can go to our web site and click “preplanning”. It will have a button to pre-plan. You can even use this as a guide for yourself. If you use our page, all you have to do is hit submit and then we place what you have in a file. Thats it.
This is important. Preplanning never has to be about prefunding. No funeral home can charge you to preplan your funeral and don’t allow them to pressure you into prepaying if you are not comfortable. This is simply about planning for that day so your family will not have to deal with it.