As if mourning was not enough!
Police in Suitland, Maryland—a Washington DC suburb—have reported that thieves have broken into cars at Washington National Cemetery. These merciless thieves prey on those who arrive at the cemetery to attend burial services for a loved one. While the incident appears to be isolated, it serves as a reminder that security cannot be ignored even at a time of grief. Here are a few tips to insure callous thieves won’t make the worst of a very troubling time:
• Secure the home of the decedent during visitation, funeral services and burial as well as other gatherings that take place away from the home.
• Ask the funeral director to instruct everyone attending a burial to lock their cars at the funeral home and the cemetery.
• Do not leave anything of value at the gravesite. Thieves across the country have stolen everything from flowers (which they resell) and copper flower urns atop graves since copper prices have skyrocketed.
• Purses and other valuables should be guarded during visitations and other gatherings.
SharedSorrows.com offers additional tips on our Time-Of-Need Checklist as well as our Post-Funeral Checklist.
It is quite common for family members to feel the need to purchase insurance after the death of a family member or close friend. Often, they are motivated to protect other family members from the financial stresses that occurred after the recent loss. While the motive is noble, there is still reason to proceed with caution. Jay McDonald recently posted an article entitled “14 Useless Insurance Policies.” Included in that list are:
- Accidental death insurance
- Cancer/dreaded disease insurance
- Optional group life insurance.
Gail Hillebrand, senior attorney for Consumers Union says, “All of the single-purpose insurances turn out to be a bad deal.” MacDonald adds, “…on more than a dozen policies—especially narrowly focused single-purpose coverage on things like accidental death, cancer, credit card fraud and mortgages—we simply fall victim to fear and salesmanship…”
At SharedSorrows.com, we receive calls weekly from grieving families who are struggling to find a way to pay for the funeral services of a loved one. Rather than purchasing a pre-paid funeral plan, funeral insurance or accidental death insurance, we strongly recommend purchasing a term-life insurance policy from a reputable insurance company. Single-purpose policies (such as funeral insurance) restrict the ways in which insurance proceeds may be used. Thus, if you can only afford a $15,000 policy, is it more important to you to have an elaborate funeral—or to have a reasonable funeral, and have remaining funds that will allow a family member to travel to the services or funds to allow your spouse to pay off the mortgage? Make sure the policy will protect you and your loved ones—not enrich unethical funeral service providers!
The Funeral Director has just told you how much the funeral will cost, then there is the cost of the casket and the cemetery plot—but now you find out that the cemetery requires the purchase of a liner or vault.
What’s The Difference? A liner can best be described as a concrete box with no bottom. Its purpose is to distribute the weight of the dirt that will fill the plot after the casket is in place. It also prevents the plot from caving in over time as the casket deteriorates. A vault is a fully enclosed concrete “box” that has been treated to keep moisture out. It is significantly more expensive.
Do I Really Have to Buy One? The simple answer is “yes” cemeteries generally require the purchase of a liner.
What about the costs? The Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule allows you to buy these items from a third-party vendor. If the cemetery is not owned by the funeral home, then ask the funeral director if the funeral home has liners for sale. We recently saved a family $100 with just this one suggestion! Online ordering is generally cost-prohibitive because of the shipping costs though you may want to check what is available in your area.
Not all cemeteries are created equal—so investigate before you buy. Today let’s talk about selecting the right cemetery and then next week we can talk about selecting the right plot.
First of all, though I will refer only to “cemeteries” here, I’m including similar properties as well. You may wonder, “what’s the difference between a cemetery, a memorial park and a memorial garden? It’s really pretty simple: a cemetery will generally allow upright markers whereas the park or garden generally require flat markers. Flat marker requirements were adopted because they reduce the incidence of vandalism and grounds maintenance is much easier.
The most important thing I want to know about a cemetery or memorial park is the status of their perpetual fund—that is, the fund that will pay for the care and maintenance of the grounds. Do they have one? Who holds and controls the funds? How much of that fund is being used each year? A number of cemeteries across the USA have largely depleted their funds—and their cemeteries shows it! One final note here—generally the perpetual fund will not pay for maintenance to your plot, this remains your responsibility.
Next, “it’s all about location.” A family I know lived most of their lives in one city in the southeast. In later years, everyone moved away—leaving one daughter to fret about “moving away from mom” who had been buried there years earlier. Ultimately, they had the body exhumed and moved to another city! Here are a few questions to ask:
How often will we realistically visit the cemetery?
Is this a location that will remain central for those who plan to make regular visits?
Is the section of the cemetery where plots are available pleasant and well-maintained?
Is it far away from streets where it might be more subject to vandalism?
Is there room for other family members in this area if they wish to be buried here?
Is the plot in an area where regular foot traffic will be walking directly on or near it?
Will you charge me extra fees if I purchase a marker from a third-party provider?
Finally, I recommend you inquire about fees and requirements. Do not assume that once you have purchased a plot your obligations are over. Most require a crypt or liner which you can generally purchase from the cemetery, the funeral home or a third-party provider. Checking out your options can save you a lot of money!