Archive for Funeral Planning

Sunday Morning piece on caskets

Sunday Morning features modern caskets

My husband watches “Sunday Morning” every…. well, you know, every Sunday morning.  Anyway, a couple of weeks ago they did a feature on the changing consumer desires for caskets.

They address the personalization craze with caskets covered in pictures and  the African type carved into particular shapes.  They also address the green, simple casket movement.  They interview Ruth Faas and Sue Cross  from Mourning Dove Studio in Arlington, MA.

The piece is a few minutes long and interesting. Check it out  –

Funeral planning has changed and you can see it in people’s changing attitude toward caskets. One size does not fit all. People want personal and some want simple and green. – AC


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Let’s transform the funeral industry

Funeral Product Gallery's new Product Gallery will help transform the funeral industry

That’s what I’m up to here at, transforming the funeral industry.

We want to see the industry open up so that people have more information and choice when it comes to funeral planning. has the best objective funeral planning information on the web and is now building the Product Gallery to provide more information and to help other funeral businesses grow.

In the three years that I’ve been working in the funeral industry I’ve seen many small funeral businesses fold. They typically are a mom and pop working from home, making urns or caskets to sell to the funeral homes or to the public.  Unless they find a a couple of funeral homes willing to sell their product these small businesses fail within a year.

We want to help these small independent businesses survive against the truly monolithic funeral industry.  And are doing so with a new feature on called the Product Gallery. We will pack the Product Gallery with as many funeral related businesses as possible. The obvious companies like casket and urn companies, but also service companies like ash scattering airplane pilots, butterfly release companies, DNA storage companies…..

Why? Because having as many businesses as possible in the Product Gallery moves us closer to our goal of transforming the funeral industry.

The more beautiful and diverse products we have in the Product Gallery, the more traffic we get, and therefore, the more leads we send to vendors in the Product Gallery. The more successful these businesses are in connecting with customers, the more the funeral industry will have to open up to businesses not necessarily partnered with funeral homes and, as a result, people will have more information and choice when funeral planning. Easy peezy!

I care. I want people to love the Product Gallery.  This model is a win – win for everyone.

Together we can transform the funeral industry.  – AC

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I wrote the MY FUNERAL tool about a year ago. It’s a seven step questionnaire covering every conceivable topic of funeral planning. People can click through MY FUNERAL checking boxes as they go.  You can stop at any time and all your work is saved. You can return and complete or update the funeral plan at any time.

We want to add more dimensions to MY FUNERAL with an interactive gallery of options where appropriate. For instance, in the section asking about special readings  you want at your funeral, we’d like to add a searchable list of poems/readings to consider. Same thing with the song selection. Need to find a song for your funeral peruse the song gallery.

Here’s an example of a recent comment we received on MY FUNERAL:

Thank you for this tool.  What a gift to family to be able to make so many decisions ahead of time and record them, and to be able to update them annually. . .

Thanks again for making this tool available.  You have thought of so many details that I would not have thought of.

I intend to print my plan and give copies to family members, even though I am only 40, because you just never know…. It will be the last gift that I am able to give.  Thanks again for providing the tool on your site. – Dawn S.(quote used with permission)

When I told David about this I teared up. This email isn’t unique,  just one of the better written comments we’ve received.

This work means a lot to me.  I’m not giving up. I’m going to work to promote the growth of  thoughtful, personal, engaging, meaningful funerals and other end of life ceremonies in America.

Here we go! – AC

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Popular Funeral Songs




Soon the Product Gallery will contain the internet's largest collection of funeral songs



I’ve begun work on a new Music category for the Product Gallery. It is fantastic!  We’ve had special programming done to make it easy to add individual songs that link directly to Amazon.  Visitors to the Product Gallery’s Music category can click on any song and hear an introductory sample from the song. It’s so cool. It’s so easy to add songs! And most importantly,I believe that it will be a big  help to people researching the right song for the funeral, celebration of life, memorial ….whatever.

This Music category is sooo important. Art carries our hearts. The perfect poem, music or visual art is a big deal for these extraordinary events.  It feels fantastic to be able to put something together that we believe will really make a difference to people.

Yesterday I was researching Popular Funeral Songs and I spent hours listening to snipits from songs to refresh my memory of how each song goes. I imagined the pressure of having to plan a funeral in a short time and spending hours researching for music for the event. It would be exhausting and stressful. Hopefully, our new Music category will help people short-cut their research and easily consider a limited number of tunes.

What would really be wonderful is if this category could become  interactive, with people making suggestions on songs they used for memorial gathering.

We will make the Music category deep with many subcategories so people can search for songs about just about every conceivable relationship, songs from different cultures, of course different styles of music, instrumentals featuring specific instruments (just bagpipe songs, just flute songs, just piano, just harp…), patriotic songs, songs for pet loss….

Watch over the next weeks as the Music category grows!

The concern, as is our concern with the article library, is overwhelming people. We go back and forth about this a lot and always arrive at the same conclusion… more information is better than us screening just what we think is important or just what we like. The Music category will be huge.

So here it comes, the internet’s largest collection of music for funerals — the Product Gallery’s Music category!  – AC

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Big Funeral Convention in Boston

nfda convention

National Funeral Directors Association convention this week

The National Funeral Directors Association is holding it’s huge annual convention now in Boston. Thousands of funeral directors from all over the world attend this event.

There are hundreds of exhibitors displaying the latest ideas in funeral related products and services.  There are also industry suppliers  like companies that make embalming fluid and gurneys with often interesting displays at their booths.

I wonder, with the recession and the hurting auto industry,  will the limo companies will have their customary huge blocks of  booth spaces to display their shinny black long cars?

At some point in the future, we will return to the convention and set up our fancy booth that fits into a suitcase.  Right now there are many companies providing a directory of funeral homes, ours is free.  We just want to provide the content to site visitors.   As grows  it is rising above the fray of other directory sites and now, we think,  is the leading funeral planning site. Leading because more and more people are coming out, looking at an increasing number of pages and staying on our site for 12 minutes — according to, once people find, they stay longer than on our competitor’s sites. People are finding  answers and explore their funeral options on  Whoo!

We offer the best funeral planning content on the internet.  We don’t care if it distracts people from shopping.

Our mission is to provide information for people planning funerals.



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10 Places to look for help covering funeral expenses

I sometimes get calls or emails from people who need to plan a funeral and have no money to pay for it. Often these funerals are for tragic deaths where there was no opportunity to plan ahead; death was completely unexpected.  Here’s a list we put together of places to consider seeking help to pay for a funeral.

Possible resources to help cover funeral expenses

Possible resources to help cover funeral expenses

1. The deceased’s own resources.

Consult the deceased’s bank and important paperwork to discover if any provision has been made for funeral expenses. Is there an insurance policy? Is there a savings account with a named beneficiary or some other Payable On Death (POD) bank account?  Are you sure the decedent hasn’t already pre-paid a funeral home, crematory or cemetery for products and services? A phone call to local funeral homes confirming nothing’s been pre-paid, can’t hurt.

2. Social Security death benefit.

If the deceased person worked long enough under Social Security to quality for benefits, a spouse or minor child of the deceased  may receive a one-time lump sum death benefit payment of $255 to be used for funeral expenses.

Social Security should be notified as soon as possible when a person dies. You can report the death to a Social Security Administration service representative by calling the toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213, between the hours of 7 AM and 7 PM on business days. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call the toll-free TTY number, 1-800-325-0778, between 7 AM and 7 PM on business days. Whenever you call, have the deceased person’s Social Security number handy.
3. Social Security survivor’s benefits.

Social Security is best known as a retirement program, but Social Security also includes survivor insurance that could be used to help fund a funeral.

When a deceased worker has paid into Social Security, certain family members may be eligible for survivor insurance. To be eligible, the deceased worker must have credit for work covered by Social Security, ranging from one and one-half to ten years depending on the age at death.

The amount of benefits paid to survivors depends on the average lifetime earnings of the deceased worker. The higher the earnings, the greater the benefit. However, a survivor’s earnings may reduce the amount he or she is entitled to under Social Security.

Eligible survivors include:
A widow or widower age 60 or older (50 if disabled), or at any age if caring for an entitled child who is             under 16 or disabled.
A divorced widow or widower age 60 or older (50 if disabled) if the marriage lasted ten years, or if                   caring for an entitled child who is under 16 or disabled.
Unmarried children under age 18 and age 19 if they are attending a primary or secondary school full                time; and under certain circumstances, benefits can be paid to stepchildren, grandchildren or adopted             children.
Children who were disabled before reaching 22, as long as they remained disabled.
Dependent parent or parents 62 or older.

An application must be filed to receive survivor benefits. You may apply at any Social Security office or, if you wish, you may apply by telephone. Just call 1-800-772-1213. Information needed to apply for benefits includes:
Death certificate
Social security numbers — the deceased, the applicant, dependent children
Applicant’s birth certificate
Marriage certificate and divorce papers, as applicable
W-2 forms or federal self employment tax return for deceased worker for most recent year
Bank and account number for direct deposit of benefits.
If you are already receiving benefits as a husband or wife on your spouse’s record when she or he dies,           immediately report the death to Social Security to have your payments changed to survivor benefits. If              you are receiving benefits on your own work record, complete an application and Social Security will                determine if you can receive more under survivor benefits.

The Social Security Administration has a helpful website with answers to many commonly asked questions. You can find the website at

4. Veterans funeral benefits.

Veterans of the U.S. armed forces and some civilians who have worked with the military or U.S. Public Health Service are entitled to a number of funeral benefits. Spouses and dependent children may also qualify.

Veterans’ Funeral Benefits may include:
Free burial grave in a national cemetery – Across the United States, the Department of Veterans Affairs’          maintains 119 national cemeteries (with 6 more legally mandated) and 33 soldier’s lots and monument sites.
Opening and closing of the grave and perpetual care
Free headstones and or grave marker
Free grave liner for casketed remains
Burial flag
Presidential Memorial Certificate
Lump sum payment up to $300 burial allowance to families of eligible veterans and up to $2,000 burial            allowance for veterans who die from a service-related incident.

Veteran’s funeral benefits apply to both casketed remains and cremated remains.

There’s a two year time limit for claiming reimbursement of burial expenses.

Many states have established state veterans’ cemeteries with eligibility requirements similar to national cemeteries. Requests for burial are usually submitted by the funeral director handling the funeral arrangements.

The following information should be provided to the veterans’ cemetery.
Full name and military rank
Branch of service
Social security number
Service number
VA claim number, if applicable
Date and place of birth
Date and place of death
Date of retirement or last separation from active duty
Copy of military separation documents.

Some private cemeteries offer free gravesites for veterans. Be aware that restrictions may apply and there may be requirements to purchase an additional gravesite or a grave marker. The VA will provide a free headstone or marker for private cemetery burials, however, this benefit is limited to eligible veterans and not to their spouses and children.

Under a Department of Defense program, funeral directors can request military funeral honors on behalf of veterans’ families. Veterans’ organizations oftentimes assist in providing military funeral honors and the playing of taps at the grave site.

For information on burial at sea, contact the United States Navy Mortuary Affairs office
toll-free at 1-866-787-0081.

For additional information about veterans’ benefits in general, call the Veterans’ Affairs office at 1-800-827-1000 or visit their website at

5. Taxpayer benefits.

Local taxpayers in many cities and counties qualify for reduced inurnment costs in cemeteries.
6. Church members and members of civic and other organizations benefits.

Church members and members of civic and other organizations may qualify for funeral assistance or for reduced costs. Contact organizations where the deceased was a member or involved to inquire about possible death benefits.
7. Credit card holders.

Credit card holders have their credit reduced or even discharged if they have a death benefits policy.
8. Employee benefits.

Check the deceased’s employer. Does the company have a death benefit policy for employees?
9. Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund.

A Crime Victims’ Fund often provides funeral benefits in instances of death by a criminal act. There are many crime victim funds across the United States. Most are funded by the state or county.  Ask the prosecutors office in your area or do a computer search using the name of your county or city and the term “crime victim fund”.
10. Death Benefits from pensions, societies and other organizations.

Organizations affiliated with some professions, such as the Railroad Retirement Board, as well as some social groups, unions and pensions, offer allowances to defray funeral costs.

Consider the following –
Workman’s compensation, if death was work-related
Civil service (federal, state, county or local) retirement pension fund
Railroad fund
Teacher’s fund
Miner’s benefits fund
Trade union fund
Credit union fund
Fraternal organizations fund

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How to pre-pay for a funeral

Pre-paying for a funeral - 5 methods

Pre-paying for a funeral - 5 methods

The National Funeral Directors Association states that the average cost of a “regular adult funeral” (funeral with embalming, viewing and a metal casket) is now $7,300. This sum does not include a cemetery plot, grave marker, flowers or obituary notice.

There’s plenty of grief and stress right after a loved one dies without having to worry about where the seven grand is going to come from to pay for the funeral, not to mention associated expenses like travel, meals, and time off of work. Take a look at our Funeral Costs article for a complete breakdown of funeral expenses. If you’re planning a “regular” funeral you’d be kind to those who love you to plan and provide funding for your funeral.

There are five major ways to finance a funeral —

Purchase funeral insurance from an insurance company
(known as Final Expense Insurance, Burial Insurance, Funeral Insurance or Poor Man’s Will Insurance.)
Usually a policy worth between $3,000-$15,000, payable to a named beneficiary immediately following the insured’s death. The funds are not subject to probate.  The money is intended to cover funeral expenses but can be used in anyway the beneficiary wants.

Purchase an insurance policy or trust through a funeral home
This option involves planning and funding exactly what funeral home, what services and what products will be used for your funeral. Only the products and services provided by the funeral home are included in the plan. Outside vendors such as the local newspaper’s fee for the obituary notice, the florist’s fee for floral arrangements, the clergy’s fee for officiating the service and the cemetery’s fee for the grave opening and closing are all considered outside the funeral home’s control and are not included.

The plan is funded either by the purchase of an insurance policy or trust instrument through the funeral home. The funeral director acts as an insurance agent and receives a commission on the sale of the policy or a fee for setting up the trust. The beneficiary on the insurance policy and trust is the funeral home.

Purchase a Life Insurance policy from an insurance company
Any life insurance policy can be used to pay for a funeral. You can buy any term or whole life policy and instruct your beneficiary to use a portion or all of the death benefit for your funeral. Standard term and whole life policies, however, aren’t offered in low face amounts like $5,000, which is why funeral insurance policies can be handy if you need insurance money only to cover funeral expenses. At your death, the money passes automatically to the named beneficiary without having to go through probate The money is intended to cover funeral expenses but can be used in anyway the beneficiary wants.

Set aside money in a joint savings account
Saving for funeral expenses can be effective if the account is a joint account and the survivor on the account is responsible for paying for the funeral. When a joint account exists, the assets contained in the account are still readily available to the other individual listed on the account. This means that a surviving spouse, partner, or child will have access to at least some funds while the estate of the deceased is settled.  A savings account to pay for a funeral is not usually recommended.  Savings accounts accrue interest and you’ll need to report this on a 1099 and pay taxes on it. Furthermore, there is the self discipline issue of regularly depositing money into savings and avoiding the temptation to draw from the account to pay for things other than a funeral.
Set up a individual Payable on Death (POD) Account at your local bank
(Also known as “Informal Trusts” or “Totten Trusts”)

Payable on Death Accounts are widely used to set aside relatively small amounts of money (less than $15,000) for anticipated funeral costs. You simply open an individual savings account or certificate of deposit with your local bank and name a beneficiary. During your lifetime you have total control over the account and complete access to it. However, at your death, the money passes automatically to the named beneficiary without having to go through probate. The money is intended to cover funeral expenses but can be used in anyway the beneficiary wants.


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