Funeral Question and Answers

Frequently Asked Funeral Questions

There are many questions which families have regarding funeral homes and services.  We have grouped some of the most common questions in the sections below.  Many times there are no specific answers or the answers depends on what the family wishes to do.  Funerals are really for the family to assist them with the healing process. You may also wish to have a look at words of wisdom article.
This is our General Price List.  It lists all the goods and services which we offer.  It is updated regularly as our funeral offering and prices do change from time to time.

This is our Casket Price List.  It lists all caskets which we “normally” offer for sale. We however are not limited to this if you desire something special.  It is updated regularly as caskets and prices do change from time to time.

The Consumer Guide to Funeral and Cemetery Purchases is a guide produced by the state explaining your rights and various information about the funeral process.

Question Categories

Select the category of interest from the list below to jump to the appropriate section.

1. Cremation questions
2. Embalming questions
3. Veteran questions
4. Service Option questions
5. Funeral Home questions
6. Social Security questions
7. Funeral Related Terms

Use Our Forum

Funerals Your Way has great collection of articles on a variety of topics that you may find helpful.


Email Us a Question

We would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.

Either call us at 619-550-7807 or email us.

Cremation Questions

Can we still have a service/viewing if we select cremation?
Of Course – many families do.  Cremation is not an alternative to a funeral – It is an alternative to burial with a casket. Cremains themselves can still be buried.
Can a cremation be witnessed by the family?
Generally, it is possible if the family wishes. Most families do not wish to be present, but some religions groups do prefer to be in attendance when the body is placed into the cremation chamber.
Is a casket required for cremation to take place?
A casket is not required for a cremation to take place. An alternative container, generally constructed of fiberboard/cardboard is used to hold the body – it is cremated along with the deceased. If there is a casket (which families may prefer) is cremated along with the deceased as well.
Is embalming required for cremation?
Embalming has nothing to do with cremation. Embalming is only suggested when there are extended viewing of the deceased. The body is kept under refrigeration until it is cremated or buried.
How long will this all take?
It really depends on the several factors such as availability of physician to sign the death certificate, crematory schedule etc.  Generally, you should expect about 2 weeks till you receive the remains.  Sometime the process moves faster and the cremains can be returned to the family in just a few days.
Can I travel or fly with cremains?
Transporting cremains on a commercial airliner

Transporting cremains on a commercial airliner

Yes, however you should check with your airline. Some airlines will allow you to bring the cremains as carry on, with other airlines you have to ship the cremains as cargo. You will need to have a cremation certificate and disposition/transport permit which should have been given to you when you received the cremains. If possible the urn should be able to be x-rayed (ie. not metal, stone or ceramic). Be advisted that the TSA workers will NOT (even if asked) open the container to inspect contents. If cremains are already in a non x-rayable container ask your funeral director to transfer to a container which can be x-rayed.

Embalming Questions

Is embalming required?

In California, embalming is not required, except in some unique circumstances. It may actually not be allowed by some religious orders or cultures.  If you plan to have a service with viewing for the family, then embalming is recommended.  For an identify viewing or a short saying goodbye viewing than embalming is not necessary however it may still be something you wish to do.  Your funeral director will be able to give you more guidelines on this.
Where did this ritual of embalming come from?
The Civil War was the first time that technology was sufficient for embalming. It arose out of a need to transport the deceased soldiers back to their families and home cemeteries.
What is embalming?
It is a process which enables a temporary preservation of a deceased person by dramatically retarding tissue decomposition creating a time frame for a viewing and/or funeral service. This process is accomplished by injecting chemical solutions into the deceased’s vascular system.
Are the internal organs removed during Embalming?
The internal organs are not generally removed unless the body is autopsied by a medical examiner. It’s more difficult to embalm a body with the organs removed because the circulatory system cannot be used as normal. The embalmer would needs to inject each extremity and the head separately and then treat and pack the empty torso and abdomen.
Are special chemicals and cosmetics used?
Yes, special chemicals are used. There are the traditional chemicals as well as more environmental sensitive chemicals. The cosmetics used can be more effective as there is not the concern over how they will affect the future health of the person.

Veteran and Military Questions

How Much Does VA Pay?

For a service-related death – the VA will pay up to $2,000 toward burial expenses, additionally if buried in a VA national cemetery, some or all of the cost of moving the deceased may be reimbursed.

For a non-service-related death – the VA will pay up to $300 toward burial and funeral expenses, and a $300 plot interment allowance if the veteran was receiving a monthly disability payment from the VA at the time of death. If the death happened in a VA hospital or under contracted nursing home care, the cost of moving the deceased may be reimbursed and a $700 burial allowance is payable.

How to Obtain a Flag for Honors

All veterans are entitled to have the US Flag presented to the family during the Military Honors Ceremony. Often the funeral director obtains the flag using this United States flag for burial purposes form.

Presidential Certificate Request Form
The Presidential Certificate request form is a request for a letter from the president thanking the veteran for their service.
Obtaining Military Records
Often times military records may get misplaced over the years.  If that is the case new records may be requested with the Request for Military Records form.
Application for VA Benefits
Depending on the individual situation the military may pay some of the funeral costs.  The Application for Veteran Burial Benefits should be completed to request these.

Funeral and service Questions

Can we have a less formal service?
A service can be anything you like it to be – there is no right or wrong.  We do however recommend that you do have some type of service/gathering.  It respects the memory of the deceased and helps all present to begin the healing process.  It may be as informal as a family gathering to pay respects.  Location is not important but often it is nice if the location somehow reflected the preference of the deceased.  We would be happy to assist you in what ever service you would like.
How quickly must a deceased be buried or cremated?
There is no specific time-frame, however if not cremated or buried with 24 hrs then the remains must be refrigerated (if not embalmed).  Generally, the funeral service is 2 or 3 days after the passing.  This allows travel time for people out of town.[/toggle]
Should young children attend the service?
This is a great question.  How children experience and deal with the funeral is in great part up to their parents.  A funeral however does have the potential to set the stage for lifelong coping skills and a positive healthy prospective on the life experience of which death is a part.  You should be very sensitive to their needs during this period.
What are flowers sent for?
Flowers are sent to funerals for several reasons but perhaps the most significant is they are a means of expressing feelings such as love and sympathy – feelings which are often difficult to put into words. They show support and a sharing the burden of grief. They create a feeling of warmth and an uplifting of the service. Some common flowers for a service and their meaning are;
Lilies – life and hope
Carnations -beauty
Chrysanthemums – devotion and loyalty
Statice for remembrance
Roses for love
How can I Delay Having My Funeral
As the expression goes – You are not going to get out alive.  There are however some common sense things that you can do to make you time on this planet as long as possible. Have look at our blog article on Avoiding the Funeral Home.
CAn I have a Vigil at Home

When families choose to retain the presence of their departed loved one within their home for a certain duration after their demise, this is referred to as a vigil. Rather than immediately transferring the body to a funeral home or mortuary, the family chooses to create a sacred space within the familiar surroundings of their residence. for more information on this see our blog post Home Vigil.

Can I still be an Organ or Tissue Doner and have a Service

Certainly, this happens all the time. The organizations facilitating this are very conscious of the need to preserve the ability to have a service. We have a blog post on “Organ and Tissue donation.”

Give me Information on the California Right to Die Law

The California Right to Die Law is an act of compassion. A person must be at least 18 years of age. A resident of California must have received a diagnosis of an illness that is fatal within six months, i.e., the illness is terminal and irreversible. We have had many clients take advantage of this law and make preplanned funeral arrangements for themselves.

Funeral Home Questions

What contributes to funeral costs?

Funeral costs include both the help of professional staff to assist with dealing with the deceased remains, legal paperwork, flowers, clergy etc and other items you purchases such as a casket or urn.  Many funeral homes also have large overhead (facilities, staff etc) which contribute to cost.  At “Funerals Your Way” we keep our overhead very low and use technology to give you the best price possible.
Are funeral homes regulated?
O yes!!  Activities are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. There are very strict rules on most aspects of the funeral industry.  As well, all California Funeral homes are licensed and regulated by the State of California through The Cemetery & Funeral Bureau.
How quickly can you pick up my loved one?
Generally, it is very quickly.  It depends on the area of town you are in and how busy we are, but generally within an hour or so.  We arrive in an unmarked van and are presentably dressed.  Please let us know if the decedent is very heavy or there are special obstacals such as stairs or tight corners which will make the removal more difficult.
Can I do Body Composting in California?

Natural Organic Reduction will be legal in California in January 2027. However, it is perfectly legal to trans the deceased to a location where NOR is currently practiced. It is a GREEN burial, and we would happily assist.

Social Security Questions

Who is Eligable?

No more than 10 years of work history and contributions into Social Security are required to receive benefits. You may qualify for benefits to be payed to the spouse and children of the deceased under a special rule that requires as little as 1.5 years of work history. Contact the Social Security Administration directly for more specific information on eligibility requirements.

Who May Get Benefits?

Who will actually qualify for benefits is a decision made by the Social Security Administration, but the guidelines below will give you a good idea.

  • Your widow or widower may be able to receive full benefits at retirement age, depending on the year of birth. In the case of a disabled spouse, these benefits may begin as early as age 50, before the retirement age.
  • Your widow or widower qualifies to receive benefits at any age if they are the sole care provider for a dependent child who is receiving Social Security benefits already, the dependent is younger than age 16 and/or disabled.
  • Your children who are unmarried and younger than age 18 (or up to 19 if the child is enrolled at an accredited school full time) may also receive Social Security benefits. If your children were disabled before the age of 22 and remain disabled they also qualify for these benefits.  The Social Security Administration does allow for benefits to be paid under special circumstances to step-children, grandchildren, and adopted children, contact them directly for more information.
  • If you have been divorced, your former wife or husband who is age 60 or older (50-59 if disabled) can get benefits if your marriage lasted at least 10 years.
Death Benefit Amount?

A one-time payment of $255 will be made to the spouse or children at the time of their death if they have established enough work history with the Social Security Administration.  Eligible survivors must request this payment within two years of the date of death. The amount of the monthly benefit amount varies based on the average lifetime earnings.

How to Apply?

You must apply at any Social Security office in person or by telephone. For your convenience we have listed some of the documents often needed when applying for benefits.  If you do not have these items the Social Security office will be able to help you obtain copies or original documents if possible.  The toll free number for Social Security is 1-800-772-1213.

  • Your Social Security number and the deceased’s
  • The official death certificate
  • The deceased proof of income or earnings for the last fiscal year ( i.e. W-2 form or a self employment tax return).
  • Your marriage certificate (when applying for the benefits of a widow).
  • Your divorce papers (if applying for benefits as a divorced spouse of the deceased).
  • Birth certificates and social security numbers of all children of the deceased if applying for minor benefits.
  • Your banking account information if you opt for direct deposit of Social Security benefits.

Funeral Related Terms

Alternative Container – An unfinished wood box or other non-metal receptacle without ornamentation, often made of fiberboard, pressed wood, or composition materials, and generally lower in cost than caskets.
Advance Planning – making arrangements for a funeral or memorial before death. It is a good idea to have your wishes known so your loved ones do not have to be burdened at the time of your passing.

Aftercare – refers to the services available to the family after the death of a loved one and generally after the funeral. It may include such items as well to obtain grief support, applying for government benefits etc. difference funeral establishments will have various levels of aftercare.

Arrangement Meeting – a meeting between the funeral director (or planner) and the person making the arrangement for the funeral. It often takes place at the funeral home but may be held at any location that is convenient. All aspects of the arrangements are discussed and a contact is agreed to.

Autopsy – an inspection of a body after death by a medical doctor in order to determine the cause of death. May be done by the police or by the family if the cause of death needs to be determined more clearly – especially in the case of suspected foul play.

Bereaved – The immediate family of the deceased, but in general suffering from grief upon a loved one’s death.

Burial – Placing of a dead body in an underground chamber – the interment. This is often a grave in the ground, but may also refer to full body burial at sea.

Burial Certificate or Permit – A legal government document authorizing some form of disposition of human remains. This could burial, cremation, transportation etc

Burial Vault – see “Outer Burial Container.”

Casket – A ridgid container designed to hold a human body for burial. It is made of wood, metal or something similar. It is also called a coffin

Cemetery – land reserved for graves (burials), tombs or funeral urns. There are various type of cemetaries such as traditional, national, green etc

Cemetery Services – Opening and closing graves, crypts or niches; setting grave liners and vaults; setting markers; and long-term maintenance of cemetery grounds and facilities.

Chapel – A large room in the funeral home generally in which the farewell service is held.

Closed Casket – a ceremony in which the body is in a closed casket, not available for viewing.

Columbarium – A structure with niches (small spaces) for placing cremated remains in urns or other approved containers. It may be freestanding or located in a chapel or mausoleum.

Committal – the section of a funeral ceremony – at the gravesite or whereever the remains or cremains are – where last words are said before interment

Coping With Loss – describes the difficult period following the death of a loved one. See also “Aftercare” and “Grieving

Cosmetology – Utilization of cosmetics to restore life like appearance to the deceased.

Cremains – another term for “ashes” also know as cremated reamins.

Cremated Remains – what remains of a body following cremation. See “Ashes”

Cremation – is a heating process which incinerates human remains into ashes.

Crematory – facility where the cremation of the deceased occurs.

Death Benefits – a deceased survivors may be eligible for benefits from Social Security or the Veteran’s Administration.

Death Certificate – a legal document signed by a physician which specifies the cause of death as well as statistical information about a person who has died. You will probably need several copies of the death certificate for various organizations.

Death Notice – a notice placed in a newspaper or on the Internet to announce the death of a person. This notice usually includes information on a funeral service if one is held.

Deceased – the person who has died.

Direct Burial – a burial with no viewing or visitation, usually consisting of care, transportation and burial of remains. A ceremony may be held at the graveside.

Direct Cremation – a body is taken from the place of passing to the crematorium for cremation without previous ceremony, viewing or visitation.

Display Room – A funeral home’s sales room where their caskets, urns, and other funeral merchandise is displayed.

Disposition – The placement of cremated or whole body remains in their final resting place.

Embalming – The process of preserving a deceased body by means of circulating a preservative embalming fluid through the veins and arteries. It is intended to slow the decomposition process to allow for a family to have a viewing.

Embalming Fluid – Liquid chemicals used in preserving a dead body, there are several types and some are enviromentally friendly than others.

Endowment Care Fund – Money collected from cemetery property purchasers and placed in trust for the maintenance and upkeep of the cemetery.

Eulogy – words spoken at a ceremony to celebrate the life of a person who has died, generally praising the individual.

Exhume – To dig up the deceased remains.

Family Car – A limousine in the funeral procession set aside for the use of the immediate family. This is the car right behind the hearse in the funeral procession.

Final Rites – The funeral service also this term refers to the last prayers and ministrations given to many Catholics when possible shortly before death

Funeral Arrangements – The result of the meeting between the funeral director and the family for the purpose of completing financial and service details of a funeral.

Funeral Ceremony– the ceremonies marking a person’s death, held before he or she is buried or cremated.

Funeral Director – A person who deal with the burial or other disposition of dead human bodies and related duties. May also known as a mortician or undertaker. This individual must be licensed by the state.

Funeral Escort – Individuals who escort a funeral procession, such as law enforcement officers.

Funeral Home – A building used for the purpose of conducting funerals and ancililary purposes

Funeral Procession – Vehicles accompanying the remains of a deceased person, usually transporting remains to a final resting place.

Funeral Service – any services which may be used to care for and prepare human remains for burial, cremation or other final disposition – may also include ancillary services

Funeral Spray – A large bunch of cut flowers sent to the residence of the deceased as a floral tribute.

General Price List – a list of prices detailing services rendered by a funeral home. It is a legal requirement to provide it to anyone who requests it.

Grave – a space in the earth for the purpose of burying remains.

Grave / Memorial Marker – A method of identifying the occupant of a particular grave. Grave markers are usually made of metal or stone and give data such as the name of the individual, date and place of birth, date and place of death.

Grave Liner – A receptacle made of concrete, metal or wood into which the casket is placed. Normally this item has four sides and a top but no bottom. The main purpose of this item is to prevent the ground from sinking down around the grave site as the earth settles.

Green Funeral – describes funeral options which are eco-friendly. For example, a more biodegradable casket may be selected and probably no embalming has been used. Anything more environmentally friendly.

Grieving – Experiencing deep sadness as the result of the loss of a loved one.

Hearse – vehicle designed and used for transporting the deceased – also known as a Funeral Coach.

Honorary Pallbearers – Friends or member of a certain group (churches, clubs etc) who act as an escort or honor guard for the deceased. Honorary pallbearers do not carry the casket.

Immediate Burial – with the exception of a graveside ceremony, the direct disposition of human remains without a formal viewing, visitation or ceremony.

Interment – Burial in the ground (body or ashes) or possibly the sea

Lead Car – The vehicle in which the funeral director and the clergy ride. When the procession is formed, the lead car moves to the front and leads the procession to the church and/or cemetery. This car is usually in front of the hearse.

Mass Cards – A card indicating that a Mass for the deceased has been arranged – really applied to the Catholic religion.

Mausoleum – a building designed to house a body above the ground, rather than buried within it.

Medical Examiner – a person who examines a body after death to determine the cause of death if it is in question.

Memorial – the generic name given to any type of headstone or flat marker used to identify the occupant of a particular grave or crypt.

Memorial Donation – a contribution made to a charity or organization in honor of the person who has died. This donation is usually made in lieu of sending flowers.

Memorial Service – A ceremony commemorating the deceased, without the body present. However, this term is also used for the service when the cremains (ashes) are present

Morgue – A place in which the bodies of persons found dead are kept until identified and claimed or until arrangements for burial have been made.

Mortuary – Another name for a funeral home – a building specifically designed and constructed for caring for the dead.

Mortuary Science – the area of study in which a funeral director as well as other specialties in the industry is trained.

Mourner – One who is present at the funeral out of affection or respect for the deceased.

Next Of Kin – a person’s nearest living relative. Usually the person responsible for organizing the funeral

Niche – A small opening or recess in a wall that is used to display an urn containing remains.

Obituary – A notice of the death of a person usually placed in a newspaper, or on the Internet, containing a biographical sketch of the deceased, relatives still alive and details of the planned funeral service. Sometimes referred to as a death notice or Obit

Open Casket – describes a visitation or ceremony in which the body is in an open casket and available for all the see.

Pall – a religious cloth that is placed over a coffin at the funeral ceremony.

Pallbearers – Individuals whose duty it is to help carryor escort the casket during funeral service. Pallbearers in some sections of the country are hired and in other sections they are close friends and relatives of the deceased.

Plot – A specific area in a cemetery owned by a family or individual. A plot usually contains two or more graves. This is the space used to bury the casketed body or an urn containing cremains (ashes).

Prayer Card – a printed card available during a visitation, memorial or church ceremony. The generally have a divine picture and a prayer.

Prearranged Funeral – Funeral arrangements completed by an individual prior to his/her death.

Private Service – a service in which the family prefers to include only the family members and closest friends of the person who has died. It is by invitation only.

Procession – The vehicular movement of the funeral from the place where the funeral service was conducted to the cemetery. This term also applies to a church funeral where the mourners follow the casket as it is brought into and taken out of the church.

Putrefaction – The decomposition of the body upon death which causes discoloration and the formation of a foul smell.

Register – A book for recording the names of people visiting the funeral home to pay their respects to the deceased. Also has areas for entering other data such as name, dates of birth and death of the deceased, name of the officiating clergyman, place of interment, time and date of service, ect – really any information pertaining to the funeral.

Remains – The deceased – usually refers to the body but many also refer to the remains

Reposing room – A room in the funeral home where a body is stored from the time it is casket-ed until the time of the funeral service.

Restoration – The process of restoring mutilated any distorted features by employing wax, creams, plaster, etc.

Rigor Mortis – Rigidity of the muscles which occurs at death. It begins after about three hours after death, reaches maximum stiffness after 12 hours, and gradually dissipates until approximately 48 to 60 hours after death

Scattering – the act of distributing ashes – also know as ash scattering

Service Car – Usually a pickup truck or van which is utilized to transport chairs, flower stands, shipping cases, etc.

Spiritual Banquet – A Roman Catholic practice involving specific prayers, such as Masses and Rosaries, offered by an individual or a group.

Survivors – The persons outliving the deceased, particularly the immediate family.

Sympathy Cards – A card sent to the family to express sympathy.

Tomb – a grave or other place, such as a mausoleum, used to bury a dead person.

Traditional Funeral – usually includes a viewing and visitation, formal ceremony, a graveside service, and burial or entombment.

Transferring – moving the remains to another destination – may be anywhere in the world.

Undertaker – an older term term for a funeral director

Urn – A container into which cremated remains are placed.

Urn Vault – a small reinforced container used for housing an urn in the ground. The Urn Vault acts the same as a burial vault does for a casket – to help protect the surrounding ground from collapse.

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