Frequently Asked Questions
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.
What do funeral directors do?
Funeral directors are skilled 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.
Why have a public viewing?
Viewing is 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 voluntary. Our staff recognizes the needs of young children. We are happy to assist you in talking with your children about what they will see, as well as helping to determine the child's needs and desires.
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?
No. Most states, however, require embalming when death was caused by a reportable contagious disease or when remains are to be transported from one state to another by common carrier. If final disposition is not to be made within a prescribed number of hours the remains must either enbalmed or refrigerated.
Is there a shortage of burial space?
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 a step toward earth burial, scattering or entombment of the body, often following a traditional funeral service. In fact, according to FTC figures for 1987, direct cremation occurred in only 3 percent of deaths.
Is it possible to have a traditional funeral if someone dies of AIDS?
Yes, A person who dies of an AIDS-related illness is entitled to the same service options afforded to anyone else. If public viewing is consistent with local or personal customs, that option is encouraged. Touching the deceased's face or hands is perfectly safe. Because the grief experienced by survivors may include a variety of feelings, survivors may need even more support than survivors of non-AIDS-related deaths.
What agencies insure consumer protection?
Funeral service is regulated by the FTC and state licensing boards. The consumer should discuss problems with the funeral director first. If the dispute cannot be solved by talking with the funeral director, the consumer may wish to contact the Funeral Service Consumer Assistance Program. FSCAP provides information, mediates disputes, provides arbitration, and maintains a consumer guarantee fund for reimbursement of services rendered. (To contact FSCAP, call 708-827-6337 or 800-662-7666). The California Department of Consumer Affairs, Cemetary and Funeral Board regulates funeral providers within the state. They can be reached at www.cfb.ca.gov or by calling 800-952-5210.
Do funeral directors take advantage of the bereaved?
Funeral directors are caring individuals who help people deal with a very stressful time. They serve the same families 80% of the time, and many have spent most of their lives in the same community. If they took advantage of bereaved families, they could not stay in business. The fact that the average funeral home has been in business over 59 years shows that most funeral directors respect the wishes of the bereaved families.
Is it right to make a profit from death?
Funeral directors look upon their profession as a service, but it is also a business. Like any business, funeral homes must make a profit to exist. As long as the profit is reasonable and the services rendered are necessary, complete, and satisfactory to the family, profit is legitimate.
Don't funeral directors mark caskets up tremendously, at least 400%?
No. Talking about the mark up on caskets is really not the point. Most items--clothing, furniture, jewelry--are marked up as much or more than caskets. The real question is whether the funeral director is making an excessive profit, And that answer is "No." Profits run around 12.5% before taxes -- not excessive by any standard.
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 either the state, county, or city or a combination. 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 the deceased a respectable burial.
What should I do if the death occurs in the middle of the night or on the weekend?
Sullivan's Funeral and Cremation has staff available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
If a loved one dies out of state, can the local Funeral Home still help?
Yes, we can assist you with out-of-state arrangements, either to transfer the remains to, or from another state. We are skilled at arranging the transportation to and from foreign countries as well.
So, I've decided on cremation. Can I still have a funeral or a viewing?
Yes, quite often some sort of viewing precedes the actual cremation. Your Funeral Arranger will assist you with the necessary information for a funeral with a cremation following or a memorial service.
WHAT TO DO WHEN A DEATH OCCURS
What should I do when a death occurs in my family?
Contact the funeral home as soon as a death has occurred. A time will be scheduled at the mortuary for you and the funeral arranger to plan the service you desire. The funeral home staff will help coordinate arrangements with the cemetery, church and clergy.
What should I do if a death occurs while I am away traveling?
Contact us immediately, and let us coordinate with a funeral home in the area where the death has occurred. We will take charge from then on and make all the arrangements for transporting the deceased to a local funeral home for embalming and preparation for return to home. You only need contact us with some basic information and call us when you return home to set a time for an arrangement conference.
What if a death occurs while traveling outside the U.S.?
If a family member dies while traveling outside the United States, the U.S. Embassy will come to your assistance. You should contact us immediately when a death occurs abroad, through the U.S. Embassy or Consulate nearest your location. We are well versed in the procedures for returning the deceased to the United States.
SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS
Who is eligible for monthly Social Security Benefits?
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 10 years, or if caring for an entitled child who is under 16 or disabled; unmarried children up to age 18 (19 if they are attending a primary or secondary school full lime); children who were disabled before reaching 22, as long as they remained disabled; dependent parent or parents 62 or older.
How may I find out more information and apply for benefits?
You must apply in order to receive benefits. You may apply at any Social Security office or, if you wish, you may apply by telephone. Just dial the toll-free number 1-800-772-1213 and the operator will schedule an appointment for you or arrange for the local Social Security office to take your claim by telephone. You may also visit http://www.ssa.gov for more information.
Who is eligible for veterans benefits?
An eligible veteran must have been discharged or separated from active duty under conditions other than dishonorable and have completed the required period of service. Persons entitled to retired pay as a result of 20 years creditable service with a reserve component are eligible. A U.S. citizen who served in the armed forces of a government allied with the United States in a war also may be eligible. A 1997 law bars persons convicted of federal or state capital crimes from being buried or memorialized in one of the VA national cemeteries or in Arlington National Cemetery.
Spouses and minor children of eligible veterans and of service members also may be buried in a national cemetery. Adult children incapable of self-support due to physical or mental disability are eligible for burial. If a surviving spouse of an eligible veteran marries a nonveteran, and remarriage was terminated by divorce or death of the nonveteran, the spouse is eligible for burial in a national cemetery.
What do veterans benefits include?
Burial benefits in a VA national cemetery include the gravesite, a headstone or marker, opening and closing of the grave, and perpetual care. Many national cemeteries have columbaria or gravesites for cremated remains. Benefits also include headstones and markers, Presidential memorial certificates, burial flags and partial reimbursement of Burial Expenses, depending on the circumstances. Our Arrangement Counselors are skilled in securing all available benefits for the families we serve. We will assist you in contacting the Veterans Affairs Office to determine what benefits can be claimed and filing the appropriate forms. The National Toll-free Number for the Veterans Affairs Office is 800-827-1000.