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Frequently Asked Questions

ABOUT THE ALLIANCE

How does the Alliance help with funeral planning?

  • Our on-line price survey provides cost comparisons of local funeral homes and cemeteries. See: Funeral Pricing | Cemetery Pricing
  • We offer brochures about cremation, green burial, how to choose a funeral home, how to pay for a funeral, and others. See our Resources page to view or download them.
  • Our 24-hour telephone hot-line service is available to answer questions and help families negotiate the difficult steps after a death. Call (585) 461-1620.
  • Our speakers provide free funeral planning information to groups, with special emphasis on preplanning, knowing your rights as a consumer, and finding affordable funeral options. Learn more about our talks or book a speaker for your group.
  • Members receive a simple pre-arrangement form for each adult member to fill out, with space to indicate type of final arrangements preferred, memorial or funeral service, newspaper notices, favorite charity, choice of funeral home and cemetery, etc. To join, click here.

Does the Alliance help pay for funerals?
No, the Alliance cannot help pay for a funeral. We are a non-profit educational organization funded entirely by donations and staffed by volunteers. Unfortunately, we don't know of any private organization that can help with payments.

If you need financial assistance to bury or cremate a loved one, you may apply to Monroe County's Temporary Assistance program. Eligible applicants could receive a funeral assistance grant of up to $1,250. Call (585) 232-3386 and ask to speak to the Burial Coordinator.

How do I join the Alliance?
Print out and fill out our online membership application, or request an application form by writing the Alliance at the address below. One lifetime membership includes your immediate family (applicant, spouse or domestic partner, and any dependent minor children), and your donation is tax-deductible. See our Home Page for a list of member benefits.

Is membership transferable?
Should you move, your membership can be transferred to most funeral consumer alliances and memorial societies throughout the USA and Canada at minimal or no cost. You simply ask your local alliance to write a Transfer Letter to the alliance at your new location.See our Affiliates Directory for the locations of other alliances in the USA.


ABOUT FUNERAL PLANNING

Do I need to use a funeral home?
Yes. New York State law states that only a licensed and registered funeral director may transport the body, fill out the death certificate, prepare the body, and coordinate with cemetery or crematory representatives. Beyond that, you may choose what goods and services you would like from the funeral home. You could choose to forgo embalming, have a funeral service at another place, or provide your own casket or urn. Prices vary significantly among funeral homes. Ask the funeral home for their General Price List, and see our Funeral Home Price Surveys.


FUNERAL PLANNING Cont'd

Is embalming necessary?
No. In fact, a funeral director must obtain specific approval to embalm from the customer. An individual funeral home may, however, require embalming if certain services, such as a viewing with an open casket, are chosen.

How do I get a reasonably-priced cremation?
This is usually a very economical choice. Arrangements must be handled by a funeral director; you cannot contact the crematory directly. Choose the funeral home wisely. Prices for the simplest cremation can range from $800 to over $3,600, depending on which funeral home you select. Compare the prices at different funeral homes, either by phone or by using our Funeral Home Price Surveys. A casket is not required for cremation; you can save money by asking that an inexpensive container be used instead. For more information, see our Cremation Explained brochure .

After cremation, the ashes may be buried or placed in a columbarium (or niche). These options involve purchasing a plot or niche, as well as paying a fee for interment, which typically costs $275 to over $500. (See our Cemetery Cost Sheet for a comparison of prices.) Cheaper alternatives would be keeping the ashes in your home, or scattering them in an area with special significance. You do not need to buy an urn from the funeral home; you can provide your own container for the ashes.
For more information, contact us to request our "Cremation Explained" brochure.

How can I ensure my wishes are carried out?
First, discuss your wishes with your family. Be specific about every aspect of the final arrangements: disposal of your body, funeral or memorial service, type of casket or container, cemetery, preferred funeral home, etc. Research costs together to make sure the plans are affordable. Write down your wishes and give everyone a copy.

It's very important for family members to agree about the type of services and merchandise to be purchased. Ideally, the family should designate one person to make the arrangements and to convey the family decisions to the funeral director.

If you don't have next-of-kin, or your immediate family does not support your choices, you can legally appoint another person to control the disposition of your remains. Fill out the form Appointment of Agent to Control Disposition of Remains. To be legally binding, the form must be signed by both you and your agent, and it must be witnessed by two others.

Should I prepay my funeral?
This depends on your situation. By paying in advance you can ensure that funds will be available to pay for the type of funeral you have selected, without burdening your survivors. You can also set aside funds that will be excluded from your net assets when your eligibility to receive Supplementary Security Income or Medicaid benefits is determined.

There are dangers, however. Your survivors may not know that you have prepaid your funeral costs and may also pay for them. Also, prepaying, more than just prearranging, generally results in reliance on a specific funeral home. You cannot predict what sort of reputation that funeral home will have at the time of your death. And if you die out of town and your survivors employ a local funeral home, there may be a hassle getting a refund from your local funeral director, despite consumer protection laws.

For these reasons, we recommend preplanning your funeral, but not necessarily prepaying it. For more information see our brochure "Should You Prepay Your Funeral?"