This is Article #1 of a 5 part series that Tate Mortuary had published in the “Tooele Transcript Bulletin” around February of 2005 addressing some frequently asked questions about funeral related issues.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide insight regarding funeral service and burial information. The purpose of these articles is to better inform families about the laws surrounding death and the costs involved with various types of disposition. We sincerely hope that this information will be of benefit to those who find it necessary to bury a loved one. We apologize in advance, should this information reach you in time of sadness in your home.
We at Tate Mortuary feel that we can best serve our families by providing as much information as possible regarding decisions that are necessary in the event of a death. We will begin by giving some background information about the law in Utah regarding those who care for the dead. We will discuss embalming and other care of the dead, and the different types of disposition available. We will discuss the costs involved in providing funerals and funeral merchandise, burial, cremation, as well as cemetery charges related to the purchase of property and be preparation of a grave for burial. We hope also to be able to answer some commonly asked questions regarding the prepayment of funeral goods and services referred to as pre-need funeral planning.
It is our hope that these articles will provide you with most of the information you may need during the purchase of the funeral service for a loved one either at the time of death or prior to the need. During these discussions, I will give the opinions of our funeral home and staff regarding certain practices that have been recently introduced into our state. While many of these practices are not currently commonplace, they are present, and our intent is to inform you of their existence. I would also like to make it clear that there are many other fine, dedicated and caring funeral professionals who share our concerns and nothing said here is meant to disparage these fine men and women and the funeral homes they represent.
Prior to 1991, the laws of the State of Utah required the presence of the licensed funeral service director during virtually all aspects of the funeral. A license was required to embalm the dead human body, to arrange for and be present at the funeral service and related ceremonies. In 1991 many of these requirements were reduced or eliminated from the funeral service law. The law no longer requires the funeral home employee to have a license to arrange for the funeral service and sell funeral merchandise. The purpose in providing this information to you this twofold.
First when you enter a funeral home you may or may not be talking to or working with a licensed funeral service director. Second, some funeral counselors or arrangers may be compensated on a commission basis. This has led to an emerging trend to attempt to sell living members of the family funeral goods and services for themselves at the same time they are arranging a funeral for a loved one. We believe that a family has enough to deal with at the time of a death and that there are more appropriate times to discuss pre-arrangement of funeral services for other family members. There should be nothing wrong with asking if a person is a licensed funeral service director or if he or she is a counselor or arranger. Remember, you should never be required to purchase anything that you do not want.
There are two notable exceptions to my last sentence. You are required to purchase embalming, if there is to be a public viewing, presence of communicable disease or an extended delay. Secondly, most cemeteries require a concrete box or vault at the grave site. These 2 exceptions aside, you may accept or reject any suggested purchase of goods and services, especially those regarding family members of the deceased. If you are uncomfortable going to the funeral home to make arrangements, it may be a good idea to take along a friend, the neighbor, or minister or someone who is less emotionally involved with the death to assist you in making funeral decisions. One concluding note regarding Utah Law, a recent law change may again require that a licensed funeral service director be present at the funeral service.
You may have read in recent years of the rise of large corporate funeral companies. For the most part these firms are publicly traded stock companies who have bought up hundreds of local funeral homes and cemeteries. Successful for several years, these companies thrived on acquisition and increasing sales. Now that they have reached the peak of their growth curve, they must now rely on increased sales for their success. It should be evident to you, whether the funeral home’s emphasis is on sales or on providing service. A funeral home regardless of size must be able to recover the cost of operation and a reasonable profit to remain a viable provider of funeral services. Costs of operation can vary widely and so can what is considered reasonable for profit.