; Your Money
Planning a Funeral
; Families should discuss funerals as they do any other major
life issue, based on what’s meaningful to the members. No reli-
gion or philosophy dictates how much money should be spent
on a funeral.
; The “traditional funeral”—with embalming, viewing in an expen-
sive casket, a funeral ceremony and a graveside service—is not the
only option. Families have the right to care for their dead in any
legal way they choose, including cremation or a home funeral.
; Shop among funeral homes in advance and study the general
price list each provides. If you do not want a package deal, you are
free to pick and choose among most of the services offered.
; When you have decided what you want and can afford, share
your decisions with others and put the details in writing.
price for cremation and services
was $1,350. Since she faced a sepa-
rate $3,000 for a grave marker, Mc-
Namara-Cary was relieved. “There
wasn’t a whole lot I had to do,” she
said. “It was a lot better than the
$8,000 price I was looking at.”
Almost a half-century ago, only
about 4 percent of bodies were cre-
mated. By 2007, the drive to keep
costs down had pushed cremation
to 35 percent of funerals nationally,
according to the Cremation As-
sociation of North America. The
group estimates that the rate will
reach 59 percent by 2025.
Do It Yourself
Home funerals are also on the
rise. These eliminate chemical
embalming and fancy metal cas-
kets. Instead, usually with the
assistance of “death midwives,”
family members bathe, dress and
lay out the body—preserved with
dry ice—for up to three days in
their homes, enough time for
fond farewells. In some cases,
states allow families to conduct
burials on private property in
rural areas after obtaining the
necessary permits. Such funer-
als can cost as little as $250.
Constance Miles, 63, of Sebas-
topol, Calif., arranged a viewing
in her home of her stepson, Allan
Stone, 42, when he died of com-
plications from a bone marrow
SOURCE: FUNERAL CONSUMERS ALLIANCE, WWW.FUNERALS.ORG
transplant five years ago. After
a Buddhist memorial service,
she and her family put Stone’s
washed body into a cardboard
casket and took it to a nearby
crematorium in a pickup truck.
They obtained a death certificate
form, had it signed by a physician
and filed it with the county.
Stone’s ashes were sprinkled
along with flowers into the ocean
by his sister, who had flown from
Hawaii. Total cost: $500.
“I hope I have a funeral like this,”
Miles says. “I wouldn’t choose a
$10,000 funeral. I’d rather give the
money to my grandchildren.”
There are about 20 “green” cem-
eteries in America right now, es-
sentially open fields. Markers are
made from local rock, and some
families dispense with them in
favor of GPS coordinates.
Slocum of the Funeral Consum-
ers Alliance says there’s nothing
really new about “green” funerals
except calling them that. “It’s the
oldest, most traditional form of
burial,” he says. “A simple burial
in a simple wood box without
chemicals or a concrete vault.
Jews and Muslims have practiced
it for thousands of years.” ;
John S. DeMott is a former
writer for Time magazine.