Industry Insights

Here you will find valuable insights from experts in the funeral industry. From monument designers and estate planners to lawyers and funeral directors, FSN Funeral Homes has the information you need.
Recent Industry Insights Articles

Where Do I Obtain Illinois Death Records?

April 1st, 2013

Ask The Funeral Expert:

Michele – My daughter, died on November 9, 1978 and her cremation took place at Severino Funeral in Rosemont, Il. My in-laws, Russell and Elizabeth Berggren, made the arrangements and have since passed away. I am trying to find any information I can on my daughter’s death records, and am wondering if you might have any records regarding her death. Any information you can give me would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you.

Funeral Expert Reply:

In the state of Illinois (as long as you can prove a relationship to the deceased and need for information), you can petition the Illinois Vital Record Department for a copy of the her death record.

You will need to prove the following:
The decedent’s full name.
* The date of death.
* The city and county where the death occurred, if known.
* The parent(s) name(s).
* Any additional identifying information you may have — such as the funeral home in charge of burial.
* Your relationship to the decedent.
* The reason for requesting the record.
* A copy/photocopy of a non-expired, government issued photo ID.
* I also suggest giving them the date of birth and location of birth.

You can ask for the information in-person, via, phone, fax, or online.  The best place to start your inquiry is in the county clerk’s office in which the death occurred. For example if she died in the same county as the funeral home, you would contact the Cook County Clerk.

If you want to visit them in person you would go to Cook County Bureau of Statistics, 50 W. Washington – Concourse Level -25 Chicago Il. By mail Cook County Bureau of Statisitics PO Box 641070 Chicago, IL 60664 or call them at 312-603-7788.

I hope this information is helpful. Please let me know if I can assist with anything else.

Can I Bury My Grandmother’s Ashes With Her Parents in Fajardo, Puerto Rico?

March 30th, 2013

Ask The Funeral Expert:

My grandmother was born and raised in fajardo and her parents have been buried together in a plot together I would like to bury her with them. She will be cremated but I don’t know which cemetery and the rules to do her final wishes. Maria

FSN Funeral Expert Reply:


The first step would be to find the cemetery. I recommend contacting the mayor’s office in Fajardo. Ask them if they can give you the name and contact information for the cemeteries located in Fajardo.

Here is the contact information for the Fajardo Mayor’s office:

Mayor: Hon. Aníbal Meléndez-Rivera
City Hall, 6 Luis Muñóz Rivera St.,
Corner of Dr. López St.,
Fajardo, Puerto Rico 00738-0865
Phone number: (787) 863-4013
Contact: Mrs. Olga I. Galindo

Once you have located the cemetery, the sexton should be able to tell you if they allow ashes (cremains) to be buried on top of existing graves.

If the cemetery allows for double burial, the funeral home providing the cremation services should be able to help you arrange transportation of the ashes to Puerto Rico. If you are taking the ashes to Puerto Rico yourself, you will need to contact the airlines you will use and find out their requirements. Normally, the airlines will treat the cremains the same way they would a carry-on bag. You will also need to contact the TSA to determine what type of cremation container is acceptable to them. Most funerals homes will be able to guide you through the complete process.

Why Clean Your Monuments?

March 12th, 2013

Although most monuments are created with durable stone or metal, they should still receive proper care to pay respect to loved ones for many years to come. What goes into cleaning monuments? Why should you clean them? Recently, FSN Funeral Homes was able to interview Wrex Lindsay from Renew Monument Services to better understand the benefits of renewing monuments.

FSN Funeral Homes: Why should people clean monuments?

Before & AfterWrex Lindsay: There are a several reasons why people should clean their monuments. Over time, hard water, bird droppings, mold, dirt and acid rain can damage a monument. Those elements will cause the stone to weaken and begin to chip or stain. Secondly, the monument represents a loved one. By cleaning the monument, family and friends feel that their loved one is being taken care of.

FSN Funeral Homes:  So, there are many benefits on having headstones cleaned?

Wrex Lindsay: Yes. Not only does it make the monument look better, but it protects the stone from cracking, chipping or staining.

FSN Funeral Homes:  Exactly when will they know when it is time to clean their monument? Are there any signs to look for?

Wrex Lindsay – When the monument starts looking dirty and is losing its shine and appeal, then it is time to start the cleaning process. Our company offers a biannual and annual service plan to ensure monuments are protected and are kept looking their best.

FSN Funeral Homes – Is it really necessary to clean a monument that often?

Wrex Lindsay – When a monument has not been regularly cleaned, it is extremely difficult to remove dirt, mold, etc from the surface without the right cleaning techniques. We do recommend every 6 months to keep the stone looking great, however, Renew Monuments services also offers an annual plan. It is a matter of which plan works best for your monument.

Renew Monument Services is a professional headstone service company dedicated to the preservation and care of monuments, memorials, bronze markers, plaques, family cemeteries, and gravesites in Salt Lake City, Utah. Their main priority is headstone cleaning. However, they also re-level headstones, repaint headstones, and can re-seal headstones (basically re-glue the pieces of the monument together).

Why Life Insurance is Important When Planning A Funeral

March 6th, 2013

At some point, everyone has to sit down and discuss the need for life insurance. Yes, it seems overwhelming, but obtaining life insurance is a necessary step in preparing your family for life without you. This is especially true when dealing with the financial aspect of planning a funeral.

FSN Funeral Home understands that deciding what type of life insurance you need and why it is important can be somewhat confusing. So, we reached out to Gary DeSha from Gary DeSha Insurance who was able to help with questions concerning life insurance. We hope this interview is informative and answers some questions you may have concerning life insurance.

What You Need To Know About Life Insurance and Funeral Planning

FSN Funeral Homes:  When it comes to funeral planning, why is life insurance so important?

Gary DeSha: All of us will likely have to face the death of a close family member at some time in our lives. Perhaps you already have – and the painful memories are still there. In addition to grieving the loss and settling your loved one’s estate, there is also the immediate concern over funeral costs and how to pay for them. It’s a heavy weight to carry for surviving loved ones. Many of us never think about how our family will pay for our funeral.

The cost may surprise you. According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average cost of a funeral in 2006 was $7,323 and that was seven years ago. This cost did not include the cemetery plot, monument, flowers, obituary or other cash expenses, which could push the cost well over $10,000.

Why burden your family with these costs at a time when they already have many other concerns? With whole life insurance, you can help reduce the worry your family will experience when you die. The life insurance policy assures that money will be in place for your family’s needs.

FSN Funeral Homes: So, exactly what are the different types of life insurance that can help cover these costs?

Gary DeSha: There are three types of plans, one that immediately provides a full death benefit and two that provide a limited death benefit in the first two years. Plan type is based on the answers provided on the insurance application. The three plans are as follows:

  • PlanRight with a Level Death Benefit – The death benefit equals 100% of the face amount. A maximum face amount of $35,000 is available, depending on your age at the time of application.
  • PlanRight with a Graded Death Benefit – The death benefit is limited to 30% of the face amount in the first year, 70% in the second year and 100% beginning with the third year. A maximum face amount of $20,000 is available, depending on your age at time of application.
  • PlanRight with a Modified Death Benefit – The death benefit is limited in the first two years to a return of premiums paid, plus 10% of annual interest. In the third year, the benefit equals 100% of the face amount. A maximum face amount of $15,000 is available, depending on your age at the time of application.

The accidental death rider can be added, at an extra cost, on PlanRight certificates with a level death benefit. The rider pays an additional death benefit if an accidental death occurs. For graded and modified plans, 100% of the face amount is paid if accidental death occurs in the first two years. There is no additional premium for this coverage. All PlanRight certificates include a common carrier accidental death rider that pays an additional death benefit (up to twice the face amount) with no additional premium, if the insured dies due to an accidental bodily injury that occurs on a common carrier. However, the insured must be a fare paying passenger.

FSN Funeral Homes: With so many different types of insurance, how does one know which type is right for them to ensure they receive the best coverage?

Gary DeSha: Find a policy with guaranteed premiums. PlanRight premiums are level and guaranteed. Unlike some other expenses in life, PlanRight premiums remain the same for as long as you keep the coverage current. Secondly, make sure your policy’s benefits are guaranteed. With PlanRight, your death benefit is guaranteed as long as premiums are paid. While your coverage is in effect, the policy will never be cancelled because of changes in your health. Thirdly, make sure you can access the cash value. In times of need, PlanRight allows you to borrow or use the cash value of the policy as collateral for a loan. Lastly, there are tax advantages to owning a policy like this. One advantage is your beneficiary will generally not owe any income taxes on the benefit proceeds.

FSN Funeral Homes: Along with there being different types of insurance, people can also determine their coverage. So, how does one even know how much coverage they need that includes funeral arrangements?

Gary DeSha: According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average cost of a funeral in 2006 was $7,323. As stated above, this cost does not include the cemetery plot, monument, flowers, obituary or other cash expenses. What if your loved one dies out of the country or out of state? The costs incurred in transporting the remains back home for the funeral could run several thousand dollars. You don’t want to plan for the worst, but on the flip side, you don’t want to be caught with unexpected expenses either. So check with your local funeral home to get an idea of the current costs associated with a funeral. Once you have an idea of what the funeral would cost, you can then determine what life insurance amount you will need.

FSN Funeral Homes:  Lastly, when do you recommend that life insurance be purchased?

Gary DeSha: You may purchase life insurance at any age. If you’re single, your parents or siblings will not have to deplete their savings to take care of your final expenses. If you’re married, your family depends on you to provide a comfortable, safe lifestyle. You need help to protect that lifestyle. Contact an agent that offers a wide range of products that can meet your insurance needs. Many policies offer more than a death benefit. Some have optional accident or disability income insurance which will provide regular monthly income if you become totally disabled and unable to work as a result of an accident. Other policies offer accumulating cash value that can be used at retirement. Foresters, for example, offers an optional family health benefit to aid with unexpected hospital costs in the event of a natural disaster.

We may not want to think about life without us, but it is inevitable. Funeral planning and life insurance are the best way to provide for your loved ones’ needs after you are gone. You should be able to take the information Mr. DeSha provided and discuss your needs with both your insurance agent and your funeral home.

The key takeaways here are:

  1. Life insurance is very important when planning a funeral.
  2. Find a policy with guaranteed premiums.
  3. Check with your local funeral home on costs of a funeral. Once you have an estimated cost, you’ll have an idea of the amount of life insurance you need.

Gary DeSha is an independent insurance agent in Alexandria, MN. Over the years, Mr. DeSha has helped many families in Minnesota plan for their financial future. Gary DeSha Insurance is located at 2109 Lake Park Place, Alexandria, MN.

Taking Ashes to Canada

February 27th, 2013

Ask The Funeral Planning Expert:
My mother wants to be cremated here in CO but have her ashes interned with her husband in Canada – how do we arrange that? Kim

Funeral Planning Expert Reply:


 The Colorado funeral home, in charge of the cremation, should be able to help you arrange the transportation. They most likely will charge for the service.
If you plan on taking the cremains to Canada, you will need to follow the Canadian laws concerning the importation of body parts into Canada. These laws are governed by the Canada Border Services Agency.
In their 2009 MEMORANDUM D19-9-3, it states:

Importation of Cremated Human Remains Into Canada
9. Cremated human remains, because they do not pose a
quarantine risk, do not require a death certificate. However,
it is recommended that when transporting the cremated
remains that the importer should carry a copy of the death
and cremation certificate and ensure that the remains are in
a container that can easily be scanned (e.g., cardboard,
wood or plastic).

Depending on how you plan to transport the cremains, you will need to follow the transportation laws of both countires. The Cremation Association of North America has an article detailing the transportation of cremains. You can find the information at  One of their suggestions for transportation across international borders is to contact the Embassy for the country where you are taking the cremains to. The Embassy will be able to give you all the rules and regulations.
There is a Canadian embassy in Denver Co.. Here is their contact information:

Telephone: (303) 626-0640
Fax: (303) 572-1158


Mailing Address:
Canadian Consulate General
1625 Broadway, Suite 2600
Denver, CO 80202

Hours of Operation:
The Consulate General of Canada in Denver is open from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm Monday through Friday.

Thank you for using FSN Funeral Homes. I hope this information is helpful.

What Is The Cost of Economical Burial Services, Not Cremation

December 19th, 2012

Ask The Funeral Expert:

Cost of economical burial services, not cremation.

Please can you email me the information at this time. I am not ready to discuss this over the phone. Thanks Bob

Funeral Expert Reply:


Depending on where you live and the funeral services and goods you need, burial costs can vary. Although I can’t give you a specific price for your area,  I can help you understand how funeral costs are based.  With this information, you will be able to plan an economical burial through a funeral home in your area.

First, the Federal Trade Commission (United States) has established a regulation for the funeral industry called The Funeral Rule. This rule basically establishes the right of the consumer to buy funeral goods and services separately. Every funeral home is required by law to furnish, if asked, a written price list for goods and services offered.  This means that unless specified by law, you are not required to purchased certain goods or services for burial. Also, funeral directors are required by law not to mis-lead consumers about what is required by law.  What particular goods and services required for burial are governed individually by state under their “Deposition of the Dead” laws. Most states have a governmental website where you can find the requirements. So you may want to check your states requirements before contact a funeral home in your area.

Most Economical Burial Option

So the most economical burial, not involving cremation, is direct burial. With this type of burial service, you pay only for the basic service fee, storage fee, casket and transportation to the cemetery.  In this case, the body is not embalmed (no state requires embalming if the funeral remains in the state) and there is no visitation or funeral service. However, you may be required to pay extra for the cemetery plot, grave opening/closing and the grave marker.

What is the basic Service Fee?

The basic service fee which includes planning of the funeral, the permits, (1) death certificate, preparation of death notice, storage of the remains and co-ordination with the cemetery can be as low as $500 and as high as $3000.

Extra death certificates can cost between $10 to $15 per copy. You will need at least 1 copy. If you are the beneficiary of the deceased’s life insurance, social security or pension plans, you will need a death certificate for each.

Some funeral homes charge extra for death notices and obituaries over a certain amount of content.

Casket and Burial Vault Requirements

Casket pricing is determined by the type and features of the casket.   Wood caskets in particular pine caskets are often the least expensive. Metal caskets are the most expensive, but not required for burial. Casket prices can range from $500 to $15,000.

Burial vaults and grave liners are not required by any U. S. state. However, some cemeteries require a burial vault or grave liner.  Burial vaults can range from $800 to $14,000.

Cemetery Plots, Opening/Closing, Grave Markers

Every cemetery has its own pricing schedule, but a national range for plots is between $400 to $10,000.

The opening and closing of a grave usually runs between $300 to $1000.

Depending on how elaborate, what type of material and/or the size of the grave marker, the price can fluctuate greatly.

Contacting a Funeral Home in Your Area

Hopefully the information above will help you discuss your burial options with a funeral home in your area. Please let me know if I can help you find a funeral home in your area.

What Is The Basic Cost For A Cremation?

December 17th, 2012

Ask The Funeral Expert:  how much is the cost for basic cremation?

my mother died today. Gabriela

The Funeral Expert Reply:


I am truly sorry for your loss. I know what it is like to lose your mother. Although the sorrow will never fully go away, this too shall pass.

The basic cost will depend on where you live and what services you need. It can run anywhere from $1,500 to $6,000.

For example — my mother’s cremation was $1,800.00. As per my mother’s request, we had no visitation, funeral service or decorative casket. So it really depends on the funeral home and added services you choose.
If you do not have a relationship with a particular funeral home, you can contact the funeral homes in your area and explain your needs. They should be able to give you a soft estimate of what cremation services cost from their establishment.
The least expensive option would be direct cremation with a basic cremation casket and no visitation or memorial service. Visitation, funeral or memorial services, a special casket, cremation urn, embalming, as well as a few other services will increase the price.
Keep in mind that with cremation (depending on where you live), you maybe able to deal directly with the crematorium. In some cases, this will also decrease the cost of the cremation.
Hope this information was helpful. Please let me know if I can help with anything else. May peace be with you.



Who Can Obtain An Obituary?

December 17th, 2012

Ask The Funeral Expert:

Can I obtain a copy of my sisters obituary?

I am her brother, closest living relative.  Fred

The Funeral Expert Reply:

Most obituaries are public notices of a person’s death. So almost anyone can get a copy of someone’s obit if they subscribe or buy the newspaper in which the obituary is published.  The obituary can be published both online and in print.
Often it is the funeral home who submits the obituary to the local newspaper. Funeral homes often will also publish an obituary on their website. However this isn’t the only way an obituary can be submitted to a newspaper. Many newspapers charge a fee to publish the obituary. So family members can submit obituaries as well.
To get a copy of your sister’s obituary you can do one of three things:
  1.  Contact the funeral home that provided the funeral services. They should be able to give you a copy of the obituary submitted to the local newspaper or published on their website.
  2. Contact the local newspaper where your sister’s funeral was held. They should be able to give you a copy of the published obit.
  3. Search for your sister’s name + obit on the internet. If the service was held in the last decade, you should be able to find the obit online.
Keep in  mind that obit do not serve the same legal function as a death notice or death certificate. If you need proof of your sister’s passing, you can contact the state in which your sister died and petition for a copy of her death certificate. You will need certain information to get a death certificate such as full name, year of birth, year of death, social security number and other personal identification information. The requirements are usually listed on the state’s death certificate request form.
Hope this information was helpful. Please let me know if I can help with anything else.


How To Find An Obituary

December 14th, 2012

Ask The Funeral Expert:  My mothers obit

My mother was killed in 1976 her name was Leola Murdock -Brown and I would like to get an obit. Because I never got one. Wilda

Funeral Expert Reply: 


There are several ways in which you can find an obituary for someone.  However, it depends on how much information you have about the deceased and how many years since their passing.  Since your mother’s was in 1976, it maybe harder to track the obit down.

A simple Google or Bing search using their complete name, year of death and the word obit (Leola Murdock -Brown 1976 obit) will often times give you the information you need to find an obituary.  However, I was unable to find your mother’s obituary with the information you gave me. The only reference to a Leola Murdock Brown was connected with a 1998 obit for a John Murdock. In that obit a Leola Murdock Brown was listed as a survivor.  Normally this method works for deaths that have occurred in the last 10 years. Obituaries over ten years can be more tricky to find.

If you know the name of the funeral home in charge of the service, you can contact them.  Most funeral homes send an obituary to a the local newspaper where the funeral home is located or to the home town of the deceased. They should be able to give you the name and contact information of the newspaper.  With that information you can call the newspaper’s archive department and get a copy. The newspaper will more than likely charge you a nominal fee.

Unfortunately, I was unable to find your mother’s obituary information with the information you gave me. The only reference to a Leola Murdock Brown was connected with a 1998 obit for a John Murdock. In that obit a Leola Murdock Brown was listed as a survivor.

You might try several of the genealogy sites. These sites often have a database of obituaries. You might also try the newspaper in her home town or the town in which she lived at the time of her death.

Sorry that I couldn’t have been more of a help.


What Are The Pros & Cons of Embalming?

December 7th, 2012

Embalming, in modern times, is the art and science of temporarily preserving a body to be suitable for public display at a funeral. Many choose this option to extend the time between the death and the funeral so that family and friends can gather together for the funeral. However, it is not required, (except in cases of transporting the body cross-state).

Here you can read reasons for and against embalming and decide for yourself what is best for you or a loved one when planning a funeral.

The Pros of Embalming

The three goals of embalming are as follows: preservation, presentation and sanitation.

  • Pros & Cons of EmbalmingEmbalming preserves the body.

The process of embalming increases the time between the death and burial to 2 weeks or more. Without embalming, the deceased must be buried or cremated within a few short days. Most deaths are sudden and the extra time can be very useful when family does not live close.

  • A More Life-like Presentation

The goal of embalming is to make the body appear relaxed and natural as possible. The process adds color back to the body and fills out areas that may dehydrate otherwise. Seeing the deceased as close to life as possible often helps loved ones to say goodbye. Some funeral homes require embalming for open casket. However, state and federal law does not mandate embalming except in the cases of transportation across state lines.

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