Adding Insult to Injury- Crime Victimization & Funeral Planning


FUNERALS… That end of life thing we all must deal with…but not now!  That’s the way most people think about this topic.  You put it off and put it off until the inevitable happens. At that point, you are at your most vulnerable and emotional with conflicted emotions. For instance, you may not want the responsibility of this task, but you were named…or there is no one else to do it. You may not have had the best of relationships, but were bound by blood and a sense of obligation.    You may have been estranged.  You may feel guilty as you have the “coulda, woulda, shoudas,” in that you could have and should have spent more time with your loved one…and now it is too late!  There is the temptation to “go overboard” on the amenities to overcompensate for your guilt.  Another scenario – here is your loved one whom you know so well. However, you never “had the conversation”, never put thought to paper, and never saw an attorney. You think you know their wishes for the afterlife…or do you?  To complicate matters… what if a spouse’s wishes differ from a parent or you have a “blended family” with opposing views? Ahhhh, such complications!  This does not even begin to address the additional problems encountered when the person in question was a victim of violence and died abruptly… I will address this in this blog.

However, I must share that I have tried to call state and local professional funeral associations and large funeral homes whose work I am aware of in order to book a radio show.  Their response- trepidation or no response at all! What’s the big deal about informing the public?  Funeral directors aren’t meant to be a “secret society” after all. They serve a very valuable purpose which the public considers barbaric and ritualistic.  Perhaps it is just a function of my much overregulated home state.  No matter…

Perhaps you think you know what to do as you’ve been to numerous funerals and wakes. Well, I have too and I learned much regarding the “behind the scenes knowledge” you or your designee should know.

A great resource used here is the National Funeral Directors Association: and the Federal Trade Commission for content info as well as others listed.

 “The Conversation”

When you are calm, clear headed and death is not imminent is the time to “plan ahead”-even for you spontaneous people.  One online reference calls it “the talk of a lifetime.” How should someone be honored, be remembered after death?

Where and when you broach the topic of death planning doesn’t really matter… Whenever the “private opportunity” might present itself. (I would not recommend during Thanksgiving dinner or the like! LOL) Why is it that families bring up such things during “festive times” reminiscent of religion and politics?   Perhaps it’s the only time they get together… or they feel they need “witnesses.”  ‘Much better to have a “rosy dinner” first and then retreat to a private room if that’s the only way.  Another option might be with a trusted financial planner or as when you do complete a will with your attorney.  It doesn’t have to be fancy with “whistles and bells” and it can be done very reasonably in terms of cost. I would be suspect of on-line wills as “not one size fits all” and state laws can be very complex differ from state to state.

Recommendations from “a talk of a lifetime” when trying to decide how to memorialize your loved one verbally through a eulogy or instructing a religious leader who is unfamiliar with the deceased reminded me of a couple of questions to be asked during a customized victim impact statement – such as proudest achievement, advice you never forgot, most memorable time, most influential person.

Families Who Become Victims of Violent Crime: More Layers of Grief:

Many sources indicate that a funeral burial should not be delayed  longer than three days for a natural death without embalming.  However, if a crime has been committed, an autopsy is mandatory to perform needed tests, followed by embalming.   This adds another level of grief, inconvenience and serves only the introduction to the disrespect and horror that a crime victim will experience.

When a member of the immediate family is forced to physically identify the victim (as occurred in our case) it is extremely traumatic!

If it happens to be a “high profile” case by virtue of the nature of the crime or  circumstances of the crime, the media, including social media, can be very intrusive. For information regarding how to manage the media in a high profile case, refer to the following ‘Shattered Lives” blog-podcast with guest, Ann Baldwin:

If the deceased was in some way complicit or contributing to the crime, it can affect your ability to qualify for victim compensation funding (including funeral expenses)  depending upon the laws of the particular state.  One  example of a wonderful  and trying job (due to the difficult circumstances to be ruled upon)     is the North Carolina Victim Compensation Program.


“The Funeral Rule” – Your Rights

*Buy only the funeral arrangements you want;

*Buy only the funeral arrangements you want;

*Get a written, itemized price list when you visit a funeral home;

*See a written casket price list before you see the actual caskets;

*See a written outer burial container price list;

*Receive a written statement after you decide what you want, and before you pay;

*Get an explanation in the written statement from the funeral home that describes any legal  cemetery or crematory requirement;

*Use an “alternative container” instead of a casket for cremation;

*Provide the funeral home with a casket or urn you buy elsewhere;

*Make funeral arrangements without embalming.

The Informed Consumer of Funeral Related Good and Services: Funerals 101

General Considerations for Funeral Practices: What are your personal Preferences; Religious influences, Cultural Traditions

Components:  Body Viewing, Visitation, Open or Closed Casket, Burial and/or Cremation

 Types of Funeral Options

“Traditional” Full-service Funeral

1)A “traditional” funeral,  is often the most expensive consisting of  a viewing or visitation and formal funeral service, use of a hearse to transport the body to the funeral site and cemetery, burial, entombment [the act or ceremony of putting a dead body in its final resting place]  or cremation of the remains.

Beyond the Basic Costs:

*Embalming [the process of preserving a body by means of aromatics fragrant smells];

*Dressing the body;

*rental of the funeral home for the viewing or service;

*Use of vehicles to transport the family (if they don’t use their own).

* Purchase of a casket, cemetery plot or crypt and other funeral goods and services also must be factored in to your budget

2) Direct Burial-[Less Expensive Option]

The body is buried shortly after death, usually in a simple container. No viewing or visitation is involved, therefore, no embalming is necessary. A memorial service may be held at the graveside oat at a later date.

Included Costs:

*The funeral home’s basic services fees,

* Transportation;

*Care of the body;

* The purchase of a casket or burial container and a cemetery plot or crypt;

Beyond the Basic Costs:

*Requested burials at the cemetery-providing graveside service  incur additional fees.

3) Direct Cremation[Least Expensive]

The body is cremated shortly after death, without embalming. The cremated remains are placed in an urn or other container. No viewing or visitation is involved. The remains can be kept in the home, buried, or placed in a crypt or niche in a cemetery, or buried or scattered in a favorite spot.

Included Costs:

*The funeral home’s basic services fees;                                                                                    * Transportation;                                                                                                                 *Care of the body.                                                                                                                   * Crematory fee may be included if the funeral home owns the crematory,                                                     *Cemetery plot or crypt is included only if the remains are buried or entombed.

Beyond the Basic Costs:

*Crematorium;                                                                                                                       * Purchase of an urn or other container;                                                                   [Funeral providers who offer direct cremations also must offer to provide an alternative container that can be used in place of a casket.]

Funeral Fees  – A “Laundry List

These include funeral planning, securing the necessary permits and copies of death certificates, preparing the notices, sheltering the remains, and coordinating the arrangements with the cemetery, crematory or other third parties;

Cash advances are fees charged by the funeral home for goods and services it buys from outside vendors on your behalf, including flowers, obituary notices, pallbearers, officiating clergy, and organists and soloists. Some funeral providers charge you their cost for the items they buy on your behalf. Others add a service fee to the cost.

 Services and Products


Many funeral homes require embalming if you’re planning a viewing or visitation. But embalming generally is not necessary or legally required if the body is buried or cremated shortly after death. ***Eliminating this service can save you hundreds of dollars.

Under the Funeral Rule, a funeral provider:

  • May not provide embalming services without permission.
  • May not falsely state that embalming is required by law.
  • Must disclose in writing that embalming is not required by law, except in certain special cases.
  • May not charge a fee for unauthorized embalming unless embalming is required by state law.
  • Must disclose in writing that you usually have the right to choose a disposition, like direct cremation or immediate burial,  which does not require embalming if you do not want this service.
  • Must disclose in writing that some funeral arrangements, such as a funeral with viewing, may make embalming a practical necessity and, if so, a required purchase.


Caskets used in “traditional” full-service funerals:

A casket often is the single most expensive item you’ll buy if you plan a “traditional” full-service funeral. Caskets vary widely in style and price and are sold primarily for their visual appeal. Typically, they’re constructed of metal, wood, fiberboard, fiberglass or plastic.

*Although an average casket costs slightly more than $2,000, some mahogany, bronze or copper caskets sell for as much as $10,000.

When you visit a funeral home or showroom to shop for a casket, the Funeral Rule requires the funeral director to show you a list of caskets the company sells, with descriptions and prices, before showing you the caskets. Industry studies show that the average casket shopper buys one of the first three models shown, generally the middle-priced of the three.

“The seller’s best interest (Sneaky!)

*To start out by showing you higher-end models. If you haven’t seen some of the lower-priced models on the price list, ask to see them — but don’t be surprised if they’re not prominently displayed, or not on display at all.

*Traditionally, caskets have been sold only by funeral homes. But more and more, showrooms and websites operated by “third-party” dealers are selling caskets. You can buy a casket from one of these dealers and have it shipped directly to the funeral home. The Funeral Rule requires funeral homes to agree to use a casket you bought elsewhere, and doesn’t allow them to charge you a fee for using it.

*The purpose of a casket is its purpose is to provide a dignified way to move the body before burial or cremation. NOT “forever preservation.”

*Metal caskets are described as:

“Gasketed, the casket has a rubber gasket or some other feature that is designed to delay the penetration of water into the casket and prevent rust.

“protective” or “sealer” caskets. They add to the cost of the casket. But do not preserve the body forever.

Most metal caskets are made from rolled steel of varying gauges — the lower the gauge, the thicker the steel. Some metal caskets come with a warranty for longevity.

Wooden caskets generally are not gasketed and don’t have a warranty for longevity. They can be hardwood like mahogany, walnut, cherry or oak, or softwood like pine. Pine caskets are a less expensive option, but funeral homes rarely display them.

Cremation Considerations and Options:

*You can rent a casket from the funeral home for the visitation and funeral, eliminating the cost of buying a casket.

*Direct cremation  can be accomplished without a viewing or other ceremony where the body is present,. The funeral provider must offer an inexpensive unfinished wood box or alternative container, a non-metal enclosure — pressboard, cardboard or canvas — that is cremated with the body.

Under the Funeral Rule, funeral directors who offer direct cremations:

*May not tell you that state or local law requires a casket for direct cremations, because none do;

*Must disclose in writing your right to buy an unfinished wood box or an alternative container for a direct cremation;

*Must make an unfinished wood box or other alternative container available for direct cremations.

Burial Vaults or Grave Liners

Burial vaults/ grave liners,/burial containers, are commonly used in “traditional” full-service funerals. The vault or liner is placed in the ground before burial, and the casket is lowered into it at burial.

*The purpose is to prevent the ground from caving in as the casket deteriorates over time. A grave liner is made of reinforced concrete and will satisfy any cemetery requirement. Grave liners cover only the top and sides of the casket.

*A burial vault is more substantial and expensive than a grave liner. It surrounds the casket in concrete or another material and may be sold with a warranty of protective strength.

*State laws do not require a vault or liner, and funeral providers may not tell you otherwise. Many cemeteries require some type of outer burial container to prevent the grave from sinking in the future. Neither grave liners nor burial vaults are designed to prevent the eventual decomposition of human remains. It is illegal for funeral providers to claim that a vault will keep water, dirt, or other debris from penetrating into the casket if that’s not true.

*A funeral provider is required to give you a list of prices and descriptions. It may be less expensive to buy an outer burial container from a third-party dealer than from a funeral home or cemetery. Compare prices from several sources before you select a model.

Preservation Processes and Products

As far back as the ancient Egyptians, people have used oils, herbs and special body preparations to help preserve the bodies of their dead. However, no process or products have been devised to preserve a body in the grave indefinitely

And lastly…

Funeral Pricing Checklist- Due to the variability of costs within each state and jurisdiction, the following checklist cannot be “filled in” with exact cost. That my dear readers, is part of your homework!. Good luck!

Make copies of this page and check with several funeral homes to compare costs.

“Simple” disposition of the remains: 

Immediate burial __________

Immediate cremation __________

If the cremation process is extra, how much is it? __________

Donation of the body to a medical school or hospital __________

“Traditional,” full-service burial or cremation: 

Basic services fee for the funeral director and staff __________

Pickup of body __________

Embalming __________

Other preparation of body __________

Least expensive casket __________

Description, including model # __________

Outer Burial Container (vault) __________

Description __________

Visitation/viewing — staff and facilities __________

Funeral or memorial service — staff and facilities __________

Graveside service, including staff and equipment __________

Hearse __________

Other vehicles __________

Total __________

Other Services: 

Forwarding body to another funeral home __________

Receiving body from another funeral home __________

Cemetery/Mausoleum Costs: 

Cost of lot or crypt (if you don’t already own one) __________

Perpetual care __________

Opening and closing the grave or crypt __________

Grave liner, if required __________

Marker/monument (including setup) __________




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