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Frequently Asked ?

Frequently Asked Questions

General Topics Covered:

What purpose does a funeral serve?
It is the customary way to recognize death and its finality. Funerals are recognized rituals for the living to show respect for the dead and to help survivors begin the grief process. Funerals in one form or another have been conducted to honor the dead since around 35,000 BC.

What do funeral directors do?
Funeral directors are caregivers and administrators. They make the arrangements for transportation of the body, complete all necessary paperwork, and implement the choices made by the family regarding the funeral and final disposition of the body.

Funeral directors are listeners, advisors and supporters. They have experience assisting the bereaved in coping with death. Funeral directors are trained to answer questions about grief, recognize when a person is having difficulty coping, and recommend sources of professional help. Funeral directors also link survivors with support groups at the funeral home or in the community.

Must you have a funeral director to bury the dead?
Yes. In New York State, a licensed funeral director or undertaker must be present and personally supervise the interment or cremation, or the pick-up from or delivery to a common-carrier of a dead human body. (NYS Sanitary Code Part 77.7(a)(4)) Further, a licensed funeral director must sign and file the certificate of death with the registrar in the district in which the death occurred.

Why have a public viewing?
Viewing is a part of many cultural and ethnic traditions. Many grief specialists believe that viewing aids the grief process by helping the bereaved recognize the reality of death. Viewing is encouraged for children, as long as the process is explained and the activity is voluntary.

What is the purpose of embalming?
Embalming sanitizes and preserves the body, retards 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 time to arrange and participate in the type of service most comforting to them.

Does a dead body have to be embalmed, according to law?

Isn't burial space becoming scarce?
While it is true some metropolitan areas have limited available cemetery space, in most areas of the country, there is enough space set aside for the next 50 years without creating new cemeteries. In addition, land available for new cemeteries is more than adequate, especially with the increase in entombment and multi-level grave burial.

Is cremation a substitute for a funeral?
No. Cremation is an alternative to earth burial or entombment for the body's final disposition and often follows a traditional funeral service. According to FTC figures for 2005, direct cremation occurred in 19% of deaths.

Is cremation as a means of disposition increasing?
Yes, but not dramatically. Below are the New York State cremation statistics for 2001, 2005, and 2006:

Year   Cremations   % to deaths
2001   31,998   20.5
2005   35,571   23.5
2006   36,841   25

Estimated percentage for 2010 and 2025:

Year % to dealths
2010 33.77
2025 43.53
(Source: Cremation Association of North America)

What determines the cost of a funeral?
The family of the deceased does. The cost of a funeral will depend on how elaborate or how simple a ceremony is desired. Funeral directors offer a wide variety of services to choose from. 

How much does a funeral cost?
In 2006, the average charge for an adult, full-service funeral in New York State was $7,150; this includes a professional service charge, transfer of remains, embalming, other preparation, use of viewing facilities, use of facilities for ceremony, hearse, limousine and casket. Vault, cemetery and monument charges are additional. This amount is an average based on all areas of the State. Consumers can expect expenses to be somewhat higher downstate and somewhat lower in upstate areas.

Who pays for funerals for the indigent?
Other than the family, there are veteran, union, and other organizational benefits to pay for funerals, including, in certain instances, a lump sum death payment from Social Security. In most states, some form of public aid allowances are available from the state and vary by county.

Most funeral directors are aware of the various benefits and know how to obtain them for the indigent. However, funeral directors often absorb costs above and beyond what is provided by agencies to insure a respectable burial for the deceased.


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Obituaries & Tributes

It is not always possible to pay respects in person, so we hope that this small token will help.


Dying is one of the few events in life that's certain to occur, yet one we rarely plan for. Should we spend more time preparing for a two week vacation than we do our last days on Earth?

Expressions of Sympathy

It can be difficult to find the right words, so we have hand-picked a collection of sympathy and remembrance gifts that will be cherished.

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Offer a gift of comfort and beauty to a family suffering from loss.

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Weekly Email Tips to Support a Grieving Friend

It's hard to know what to say when someone experiences loss. Our free weekly newsletter provides insights, quotes and messages on how to help during the first year.

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