Funeral Planning

Planning a funeral during a time of grief can be overwhelming. We're here to help take the stress out of planning funeral services.

Whether you are planning a funeral for yourself or for a loved one, here you will find valuable resources to get you through this tough time.
Recent Funeral Planning Articles

Questions about Funeral Pricing

August 27th, 2014

FSN Funeral Homes,

Funeral PlanningWorking with my parents pre-planning.  How do I know what FH’s are independently owned vs big corporation?  What should I expect to pay for Funeral Home access, Casket, procession to grave site?




Unfortunately, there aren’t any definitive or universal answers for you on any of these questions, but I’ll go through them one at a time and give you the best answer I can for each.

  1. Independently owned or big corporation – From the outside, it’s very difficult to know with any certainty. You can check the business website and its ‘About Us’ section for information, but the best way to know is probably just to ask. I would like to add that it’s equally possible to get good service from a corporation and bad service from an independent as vice versa. It’s really about the individual funeral home’s reputation, not who owns it.
  2. Pricing for Funeral Home access, casket or procession to grave site – Again, there is no hard and fast answer here. Your best bet will be to go to the websites of funeral homes in your area and shop around. Treat it like you would any other service you want to buy. Due to the “Funeral Rule” enforced by the Federal Trade Comission, funeral directors must give you an itemized list detailing the pricing for each of their services up front. Contact a few of your local funeral homes and get that list.

I would caution that the cheapest services are not always equal. Check user reviews if they’re available, and if they’re not, ask around the community to find out if other people have been pleased with the services they and their loved one received.

Arlington National CemeteryHere are some tips I can give you:

  1. Make sure you are only paying for the services you want – Package deals are great, except when they include services you don’t want. Why? Because whether you want it or not, you’re probably still paying for it. When pre-planning you have time to shop and think. Cherry-pick the services you want and work to get the best prices you can. Then, get it in writing. 
  2. Caskets are marked up – While there are no definitive price ranges on caskets, you can be sure that they are marked up. Funeral homes are a business and they are working to make a profit. They have to so they can stay in business. Legally, they cannot refuse or charge extra for using a casket you purchased somewhere else. Casket shopping can be done online and across the country. Still, if you find the casket you want at a price you prefer somewhere else, you might bring that price to the funeral home you are going to use and see if they are willing to match.
  3. Funeral Consumers Alliance – There is a volunteer organization that helps with exactly what you are trying to do. Some of the more active ones have actually already done a lot of the legwork on price comparisons. Here is a link to their list of states. Pick yours and see if they have any additional information that can help.

Pre-planning a funeral is important because it allows you to make these decisions and nail down the pricing when you aren’t overcome by grief. Don’t be afraid to take your time and get the best information you can!



Shipping Bodies From One State For Burial In Another State

January 14th, 2014

FSNFH Ask the Expert Question: shipping bodies

I now live in Port Huron but my wife is buried in the National Cemeraty in Bushnell Fl. I would like to know if there is a funeral home that ships bodies so when I die I will be with her. Paul

Funeral Expert Reply:

Mr. Zenz,

You situation is not uncommon. Bodies are transport often from one city to another and from one state to another. In fact, there are companies that specialize in this kind of transportation. However, these companies usually work with the funeral homes and not the individuals. So you will need to determine where you need a funeral home. If you plan on services such as a visitation in Port Huron, the funeral home there can help coordinate the arrangements with the funeral home and cemetery in Bushnell. If you are not planning any services in Port Huron, the funeral home in Bushnell can help coordinate the transportation and burial from Michigan to Florida.

If need help finding a particular funeral home in either area, please let me know. Or you can visit the Port Huron MI Funeral Homes or Bushnell FL Funeral Homes pages on FSN Funeral Homes.

Mortuary Transport from Canada to Arizona

November 20th, 2013

Ask The Funeral Planning Expert:

I need information on what is involved in transporting one’s body from Montreal to the U.S., specifically Arizona, including cost. – Alexandra

Funeral Planning Expert Reply:

Alexandra –

When it comes to transporting human remains internationally, it is easy to be overwhelmed with the required clearances and red tape deemed necessary by two different governments. Families who have suffered a loss often do not know where to start and thankfully can rely on their local funeral home to help them make preparations. Your first step would be to check with your local funeral home and make sure they are familiar with the complexities of international mortuary shipping. Here is our directory of Montreal funeral services.
And our directory of Arizona funeral services can be found here.

While some funeral services can arrange for complete international transportation, it is important to take the steps to understand the protocols and terminology of funeral shipping so you will be better informed and able to take control of the process and ultimately avoid unnecessary and overly expensive costs.

If you do not have a specific funeral service in mind or your local funeral home does not offer mortuary transport, you would need to first contact both a Canadian funeral service that is able to prepare the body for shipping and an Arizona-based funeral home or mortuary transport service that can receive the remains upon delivery. In your searching, you may find a funeral home with full international services. They can arrange for the necessary paperwork, certificates (with translations if necessary), air-tray or container and air transportation on your behalf. Some funeral homes will have a specific airline that they use and discounts applicable to the bereaved. Fees for these services can vary greatly and also depend on whether the body is embalmed or cremated.

There are regulations in Canada and the United States that govern the movement of human remains.  Here is what the U.S. Customs and Border Protections has to say about transporting remains.

If you are making the travel arrangements yourself, be it that is your wish to do so, or it is necessitated by managing costs then helpful information is available on most of the major airline’s cargo web sites. Each major carrier will detail exact requirements, including paperwork and approved containers or air trays for international travel of human remains. Often carriers will have special staff members dedicated to helping make these arrangements and work directly with you to ensure safe and honorable transport and delivery. Here are a few direct links to get you started:
If shipping a body for burial, you will have to work with a coroner or Montreal-based funeral service to complete documents, prep the body in an approved container and arrange delivery to the airport. Be aware that you will need to have an English death certificate and embalming/cremation certificate ready to present when traveling into the United States. Upon arrival in Arizona, you will need to work with a local funeral service to arrange for pickup. The costs for these services in both countries can vary so request estimates when contacting funeral home providers.

If traveling with cremated remains, most airlines allow ashes to be taken as passenger carry-ons provided the container can travel through TSA x-ray machines. TSA personnel are not authorized to open an urn and will not inspect the contents of an urn if you open it for them. If the sealed container cannot pass through the x-ray machine, it will not be allowed as a carry-on. Because of this requirement, containers made of plastic, wood or any non-lead based ceramic are used for transport. Most funeral services are familiar with this requirement and can recommend a suitable option at time of cremation. If a stone or metal urn is desired, a temporary container can be selected and once arriving at the final funeral service destination, the ashes can be transfered to a permanent receptacle.  Different airlines have protocol for checking in cremated remains with airline cargo and baggage so it is best to search a specific airline’s website or call the company before flying. Be sure to travel with the death certificate and cremation certificate to present at customs.

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

Some Benefits of Preplanning a Funeral

July 16th, 2013

Talking about your own funeral can be an uncomfortable proposition. No one likes to be faced with their own mortality, and though the eventuality of death is not unknown, it is the one truth that we all hesitate to confront. However, uncomfortable or not, preplanning your funeral is one of the most responsible things you can do to help ease things for your family after you are gone.

Funeral PlanningEmotional Security

In the event of an unplanned death, there are a plethora of questions that your loved ones will have to answer and in short order. They will need to make important, informed decisions while dealing with their recent loss. That emotionally distraught state of mind is not optimal for decision-making of any kind and certainly not for the quick planning that must be accomplished for a timely funeral.

Preplanning your services will remove a large number of those questions from the table. You will have worked out beforehand if you want to be buried or cremated, the type of service you would prefer, the casket or urn you desire, etc. You can even plan the details of the funeral such as which songs you’d like to be played. This will leave your loved ones with the peace of mind that things are being done as you’d like, and remove any uncertainty they might otherwise have had in a time of great difficulty.

Financial Security

Most funerals offer an option to prepay as well as preplan. With the prepay option, you have an opportunity to remove, or reduce, the financial burden from your loved ones, and since you’ve preplanned your funeral in its entirety, you know beforehand what the costs will be.

Many funeral homes offer a payment plan so that you are not required to come up with the full price of the funeral at once. You can make payments over a period of time in much the same manner as you would pay for a car or credit card. Funeral directors understand that you may have difficulty paying a large sum at once, but so too might your loved ones if they are left to shoulder that burden alone.

Contemplating death may be difficult, but preplanning a funeral doesn’t have to be. Contact your local funeral director and learn more about how you can take this simple, easy step that will save your loved ones untold amounts of stress and worry. Preplanning a funeral just makes sense, and as with much of life, the sooner you can do it the better off you and your loved ones will be.

Going “Green” at the End

July 5th, 2013

In today’s world, we are always looking for the “green” alternative. Our lives are spent impacting the world and the environment through the choices we make and the actions we take each and every day. It’s no surprise that, with all that potential for causing damage, many of us try to give back in any way that we can.

Recycling? Yes, please. Hybrid car? Sign me up! If living green is what you want, there are numerous ways, and varying degrees, to which you can make that happen. But what about dying green? What are our options if we want to make less of a lasting impact on the earth?

There was a time, not so long ago, that there were none. However, the world is changing. With new technology comes new innovations, and with new attitudes come some old, recycled ideas. If you are looking for more green options for your remains, here are three things you might consider.

Green BurialsForest Sunrise

The greenest option available at this time is the green burial. This option returns your body to the earth as naturally as possible without any added chemicals. Basically, A green burial is a burial where the deceased is placed, without embalming, in a biodegradable shroud, biodegradable casket or favorite blanket and then set in the earth.

Many green cemeteries encourage family and friends to plant trees and plants on the spot their loved one was buried so that the remains can contribute to new life. Most of them don’t allow headstones or grave markers other than what has been planted, and though it is technically a cemetery, wildlife is encouraged to grow and inhabit the area.

The idea of the green burial is not new, though the motivations behind it are. Certain cultures have buried their dead without ornamentation since the beginning of time. However, none of these cultures were performing these actions because they were specifically concerned about any lasting effects on the earth but rather chose to bury their dead this way for religious reasons or out of necessity. It is only recently that people have viewed this ancient tradition as a green and natural alternative to traditional burial.

Alkaline Hydrolysiswater

Alka-what? Hydro-who? Basically, this is an alternative method of cremation wherein the body is placed in a tube with a 95% water and 5% lye solution. This is then heated under pressure to prevent boiling to approximately 160 degrees Celsius or 320 degrees Fahrenheit. The body is then able to break down into its chemical components.

Essentially, this chamber effects the same decomposition process the body undergoes naturally, but it takes three hours instead of twenty-five years. The resulting biological waste is washed down the drain, and the bones as well as any metals from teeth fillings, hip replacements, or pace-makers remain. The bones are crushed into powder and given back to the family as ash, similar to cremains, while the metals are collected and disposed of as the family sees fit. Recycling is an option.

The creators of this method claim that traditional cremation emits twenty times more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere per body than alkaline hydrolysis, and that their chamber is 75% more energy efficient than the standard cremation chamber. All of that sounds good, but this is still a new process and the validity of these claims is still being tested, as well as the low impact environmental claims for the resulting waste.

However, there are already seven states that have legalized this process for commercial purposes and more are considering it every day. If you want an alternative to cremation, this is definitely one to keep an eye on.

Frozen Forest looking upPromession

Founded by Swedish biologist Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak, promession is yet another alternative to cremation. In promession, the body is immersed in liquid nitrogen and completely frozen. Then the remains are vibrated until they shatter into pieces. The remains are then subjected to a vacuum so that they become a dry powder weighing 50%-70% less than the original body. Any metals can be removed by a magnetic process or by passing the powder through a sieve. Finally, the remains are placed in a biodegradable casket and interred in a shallow grave. Aerobic bacteria, bacteria that require oxygen to live, will decompose the remains into humus or compost in as few as twelve months.

Like alkaline hydrolysis, this method does not emit any direct carbon dioxide into the air, and the aerobic bacteria, present because of the shallow burial, ensure that no CH4 is released as would happen with a deep burial. In this way, the body is naturally recycled into the soil.

If this sounds like something you’d like to know more about, there are plenty of sites online to give you more information, but this method is still being licensed and is not yet available for commercial use. It will be a few years yet before promession is ready for the public, if at all.

As you can see, traditional burial options are not the only options available. Time will tell if these alternative methods will catch on or ever be in a position to replace the big two, but it is a comfort to know that such alternatives are being explored. It’s important for funeral homes and clients alike to keep abreast of new developments as it’s impossible for clients to ask for a change in the traditional methods if they don’t know what their options are. Likewise, funeral homes need to be aware of the changing demands of their clientele.

Changes in the industry can be beneficial for everyone, not to mention the environment, and ignoring them just isn’t an option. Like with anything else in today’s world, if you’re standing still you’re losing ground.

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.

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 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.

Continue reading “What Are The Pros & Cons of Embalming?” »

Locally-owned or Corporate Funeral Home?

October 5th, 2012

Often knowing where to begin is the most challenging aspect of funeral planning. When choosing what funeral home to use, there are many factors to consider. The first of which is whether to use a locally-owned funeral home versus a corporate funeral home. Each have their advantages, yet the overall approach and guidance may be different.

To understand the advantages of using a locally/family-owned funeral home, FSN Funeral Homes spoke to Larry Don Graves, owner of Sam Houston Memorial Funeral Homes in Huntsville, TX. Mr. Graves gives us great insight into the benefits of using a locally-owned funeral home.

Larry Graves - Funeral Director of Sam Houston Memorial Funeral HomeFSN Funeral Homes: What is the most significant advantage of using a locally/family-owned funeral home over a corporate funeral home?

Larry Don Graves: “A family owned funeral home’s major desire is always about the service and care given to the family. We focus on catering to the specific needs and wants of the deceased and their family because we are not just a business and they are not just our customers. They are part of our community and part of our daily lives. In fact, most  mom and pop-owned funeral homes, have a strong sense of community — often giving back to that community in a variety of ways. Corporate-owned funeral homes often do not have this same in-depth connection with the local community.”

FSN Funeral Homes: As a family-owned funeral home what is your approach or relationship with local families?

Continue reading “Locally-owned or Corporate Funeral Home?” »

3 Funeral Planning Aspects You Need to Know

June 7th, 2012

The Traditional Funeral Service Can Be Personalized for Each Family

Let’s face it, the average person has little to no clue about what goes on behind planning a funeral service.  That’s why there are funeral home directors to guide individuals through the process.  Even so, it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of what you want and what you need before meeting with a funeral director.   That’s why FSN Funeral Homes called Janie Singleton, co-owner and funeral director for Faith Funeral Service, to get some insight into recent changes in the funeral home industry and her opinion on the funeral home’s responsibility to educate the public.

Through her 12 years working in the industry, Singleton has found many myths exist around funeral planning which create potential problems.  In a recent seminar hosted by Singleton, she discussed three major aspects affecting the funeral home industry which she feels the public should be more aware of: changing burial methods, pre-planning, and new legislation.

Changing Burial Trends Provide More Options

As she discussed the number of ways which a burial may be planned, Singleton stresses the opportunity this gives to those burying their loved ones.  “Every service can be customized to fit each family,” Singleton explains, “and that’s what we try to do.” Here are a few burial options Singleton described: