Funeral and Memorial Service Preplanning
Preplanning a funeral or memorial service is something that many people choose to do to help their family and friends. Preplanning can lessen the stress on loved ones who would otherwise have to make difficult decisions at a time when they may not be best prepared to do so. Although most people are not comfortable focusing on what will happen at the end of life, preplanning your funeral or memorial service can be as important as preparing for any other important event in life.
Funeral and Memorial Service Preplanning: Detailed Information
This information is meant to be a general introduction to this topic. The purpose is to provide a starting point for you to become more informed about important matters that may be affecting your life as a survivor and to provide ideas about steps you can take to learn more. This information is not intended nor should it be interpreted as providing professional medical, legal and financial advice. You should consult a trained professional for more information. Please read the Suggestions and Additional Resources documents for questions to ask and for more resources.
Arranging a funeral or memorial service for a loved one can be a challenging task during an already difficult time. In addition to managing feelings of grief and loss, there are many important decisions that must be made within a relatively short period of time. Family and friends want to honor the wishes of their loved one, but often do not know the best way to do things.
Preplanning your funeral or memorial service is something important that you can do for family and friends. There can be comfort for family and friends in knowing that the services reflect your wishes. Preplanning can lessen the stress on loved ones who would otherwise have to make difficult decisions at a time when they may not be best prepared to do so.
Although most people are not comfortable focusing on what will happen at the end of life, preplanning your funeral or memorial service can be as important as preparing for any other important event in life.
This document provides information about the basics of funeral and memorial service preplanning, including:
- Benefits of funeral or memorial service preplanning
- Sharing preplanning decisions with loved ones
- Starting the preplanning process
- Funeral and memorial service terminology
- Deciding between a funeral and memorial service
- Considerations for preplanning
- An overview of costs
- The "Funeral Rule"
- Burial benefits
- Prepaying funeral or memorial service costs
- Selecting a funeral home
- Selecting a burial site
- Writing down and storing preplanning wishes
Benefits of Preplanning a Funeral or Memorial Service
An increasing number of people are preplanning their own funerals, naming their funeral preferences, and sometimes paying for them in advance. Documenting your wishes for a funeral or memorial service may provide comfort and relief for loved ones. Many people think of funeral planning as a part of their estate planning process.
There are important reasons to preplan your service, such as:
- Financial concerns: Funerals and memorial services can be expensive. Many decisions about services and purchases may have to be made during a time of high emotional stress. Making these decisions ahead of time allows for more careful consideration of all the options and may result in reduced costs.
- Emotional concerns: Some people want to ease the stress that their loved ones are likely to experience during the time of planning a funeral or memorial service. Making your wishes known in advance will reduce the number of decisions that your loved ones will have to make and may help make this time of loss less stressful.
- Personal wishes: If you have ideas and personal preferences about what you want your funeral or memorial service to be like, you can take steps now to define your wishes and leave instructions for arrangements of the services.
Sharing preplanning wishes with loved ones
Although your loved ones may know you well, it could be impossible for them to predict what type of funeral or memorial service you would like to have. Sharing your thoughts with them also gives you an opportunity to find out how they feel about your ideas.
Discussing your preplanning wishes with loved ones can also provide an opportunity to talk about other important matters. For example, if you do not want there to be a lot of expense involved in a funeral or memorial service, this type of discussion provides an opportunity to reinforce the fact that you do not believe that a service has to be expensive to show love and respect.
Starting the Preplanning Process
As you start the preplanning process, consider the options and write down what you would like in a funeral or memorial service. This is also the time to compare the prices of services and merchandise offered by various funeral providers.
Keep in mind that you do not have to think about everything all at once, and you do not have to cover every detail. However, if you realize that some aspect of the service is important to you, write that thought down. Then, make certain that whoever will be responsible for making the funeral arrangements for you will have access to your notes.
The following steps can be taken to start the preplanning process:
1. Make a decision about the kind of funeral or memorial service you want. Think about whether you want a funeral or memorial service, how many people you would like to include, whether you want the service to be formal or informal. Keep in mind that there are no strict rules about arranging these types of services. For example, some people may choose to have both a funeral and memorial service, while others may decide to repeat the service in a number of different locations.
2. Consider the costs. Funeral and memorial service expenses can vary greatly depending on specific service choices. You can help define how much the service should cost through your own research, cost comparisons and the information you leave for family and friends about your preferences. Some people choose to prepay their own funeral and burial expenses.
3. Select a person to oversee your funeral or memorial service. Choose a trusted friend or family member to take responsibility for following your instructions for your funeral or memorial service.
4. Decide what arrangements you want to be made for the physical remains. Consider the different ways to arrange for the disposal of the remains, including burial, cremation and donation for transplants or to medical teaching and research institutions. Be sure to talk to your loved ones about your decision.
If you are interested in donating your body to medical research or becoming an organ or tissue donor, there are a number of Web sites that provide information and answers to frequently asked questions. A member of your medical team or a hospital social worker can also direct you to organizations that will help you understand the process and register as a donor.
Funeral and Memorial Service Preplanning Terminology
There are terms related to funeral and memorial services that you need to know, including:
Casket or coffin is a box in which a body is buried.
Columbarium is a vault with small spaces or niches for cremation urns or containers.
Cremation is the method of converting the remains to ashes.
Crypt is a space in a mausoleum or other building that holds the remains.
Direct cremation is done shortly after death without embalming.
Direct burial happens shortly after death with no viewing or visitation, so no preservation of the body is necessary.
Embalming is a chemical process that is used to temporarily preserve the body.
Entombment is burial in a building or structure.
Grave liner or outer container is a concrete cover that fits over a casket in a grave to minimize ground settling. This item is optional in some states.
Interment is burial in a casket in the ground, inurnment (see the next definition) or entombment.
Inurnment is the placing of cremated remains in an urn.
Mausoleum is a building in which remains are buried or entombed.
Memorial society is an organization that provides information about funerals and burials.
Urn or container holds cremated remains. These are available in a variety of forms and materials including metal, wood, and ceramic.
Deciding Between a Funeral and Memorial Service
Your cultural traditions, faith-based practices, cost and personal preferences are some of the factors that may influence funeral and memorial service preplanning. Other considerations may help you decide between a funeral and a memorial service, such as where you want the service to be held and whether you prefer a traditional service or a service that specifically reflects your personal style.
Differences between funeral and memorial services include:
- A traditional funeral ceremony is most often held in a funeral home or place of worship and may be quite formal
- The body is often present during the service with either an open or closed casket
- A faith-based service is usually held at a place of worship or a funeral home and may include a blessing, prayer service or brief ceremony
- Members of various organizations, such as veterans, may choose a service that includes a ceremony that honors the values of the individual and the organization
- A memorial service is typically a less formal and more personally-styled service to reflect the life of the one who has died.
- A memorial service is often held some time after the burial or cremation without the body present.
- Memorial ceremonies may be held anywhere, including a place of worship, funeral home, outdoor location, private residence or even a favorite public place, such as a community center
- Memorial services offer a way to have an affordable and relatively simple service
Considerations for Preplanning
The following are facts about funerals, memorial services, burials or cremation to consider:
1. Laws differ between states. Determine what is required in your state for the type of funeral or memorial service you want.
2. A memorial service may be held, with or without the remains present.
3. Embalming is typically required only when the body is transported a long distance or across state lines, or when the death was caused by certain contagious diseases. Refrigeration may preserve the body adequately if a burial will occur within a few days.
4. Caskets are not required if the body will be cremated and the body will not be at the funeral or memorial service.
5. If cremation will occur following a service at which the body is present, consider renting a casket for the service. Funeral providers who offer direct cremations must also offer an alternative container that can be used in place of a casket.
6. Cremated remains can be kept at home, buried or placed in a crypt or niche in a cemetery, or buried or scattered in a favorite place. If you wish to have the ashes scattered, be sure to check the law in the state in which you want this done to be sure that is legal. There are companies that will scatter ashes according to your wishes, including at sea.
7. Under federal law, a funeral home cannot refuse to use a casket or vault if it is purchased elsewhere, and they also cannot charge for it. There are companies that sell caskets independently from funeral homes, sometimes at a lesser price.
8. Some people decide to make a donation of their own remains to medical research and teaching universities. This type of arrangement should be set up in advance with the medical institution. Loved ones may be uncomfortable honoring these wishes, so it is important that arrangements be made in advance. Discuss this decision with loved ones so that your wishes are known and understood.
9. It is likely to be financially worthwhile to do research and compare prices. Find out what is available from local funeral homes, stores that sell discounted caskets and other retailers that cater to funeral needs.
An Overview of Costs
Direct cremation: The cremation takes place shortly after death with no need for embalming. Costs most often include the funeral home's basic services as well as transportation and care of the remains. A crematory fee may be included or, if the funeral home does not own the crematory, the fee may be added. There is also a cost for the urn or container. If the remains are buried or entombed, there is a cost for a burial site, such as a cemetery plot or a space within a mausoleum. There may be additional costs if a service is used to distribute the ashes, such as by air or by sea.
Direct burial: The remains are buried shortly after death, usually in a simple container. This method is usually less expensive than a full-service funeral and burial. Costs usually include the basic services fee of the funeral home, transportation and care of the body, purchase of a casket or burial container and burial arrangements.
Full-service traditional funeral and burial: This type of funeral most often includes a visitation, formal funeral service and use of a hearse to transport the body to the funeral and burial sites. This is usually the most expensive type of service. Costs include the basic services fee of the funeral home, care of the body, rental of the funeral home for viewing and service, use of vehicles for transport of people to the burial site, costs of a casket, burial arrangements, graveside service fees and other funeral items.
Memorial service: Costs vary greatly depending on where the service is held, what is included in the service, and the number of guests that participate in the services.
Keep in mind that, in addition to fees for funeral and memorial services and burials, there are also the honoraria (money gifts) that should be given to various people who have a role in the service, including clergy, organists and soloists.
Funeral or Memorial Service Payment Options
There are a number of ways to cover the costs of a funeral or memorial service, including:
- Paying for everything up front
- Setting up a payment plan
- Deciding what you want, putting money aside for the service and leaving enough money for loved ones to pay the costs
- Joining a nonprofit funeral and memorial society with the goal of reducing high costs through preplanning.
- Receiving burial payment assistance through a county or metropolitan human services agency program if the family cannot afford to pay for any type of funeral expenses. Generally, applications must be made following the death, and the county program must provide written approval of the burial assistance request prior to the funeral service.
You can be as simple or detailed as you choose to be when making decisions about a funeral or memorial service. Funeral homes will usually arrange for certain goods and services on behalf of a family and bill them for the selected items and services later. These are called cash advance items and typically include charges for basic services and arrangements, funeral stationery, flowers, obituary notices in newspapers, selected funeral transportation and graveside services. Some funeral providers add a service fee to each of these charges.
The funeral provider should give you an itemized statement of the total cost of the funeral goods and services you have selected when you are making the arrangements. If the funeral provider does not know the cost of the cash advance items at the time, they are required to give you a written "good faith estimate" of the cost. This statement also must disclose any legal, cemetery or crematory requirements that you purchase and any specific funeral services or merchandise.
In order to keep costs down, consider whether family or friends can supply some of these goods or services at little or no cost. For example, a family member could write the obituary or a friend who gardens could supply flowers or green plants for the service. These types of contributions can lower the cost of the funeral as well as add a personal touch.
The "Funeral Rule"
In 1984, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) put the "Funeral Rule" into effect to enable consumers to obtain information about funeral arrangements. This rule requires that, if you meet with them in person, the funeral home staff must provide you a written and itemized price list that shows the goods and services the funeral provider offers, without any commitment on your part.
The Funeral Rule also requires that the funeral home:
- Provide you with information about any state law that requires a purchase of specific goods or services
- Provide a list of your legal rights
- Allow you to purchase and use a casket or urn from a source other than the funeral home (no extra fees can be charged by the funeral home for doing so)
- Make alternative containers available if the funeral home offers cremations
The Funeral Rule does not cover cemeteries and mausoleums unless they sell both funeral items and funeral services, so be careful when making purchases to ensure that you receive all relevant price lists and other information.
If you believe that a funeral home has violated the Funeral Law, contact the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA). The FCA will help you determine if the law has been violated and, if so, how to file a complaint.
Burial benefits are funds paid by a program or organization to help pay for burial costs. Some government programs offer burial benefits, including the Social Security Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Other organizations that may also offer these benefits include trade unions, fraternal organizations, clubs and credit unions. Check all federal and state government programs for which you are qualified as well as each organization to which you belong to find out if there are any burial benefits available to you. If you are working with a funeral home, they will also be able to help determine eligibility for these programs.
Prepaying Funeral or Memorial Service Costs
Prepaying is intended to offer the benefit of assuring your wishes will be followed at a lower cost. However, there can be risks to prepaying, such as the funeral home going out of business or having a change in ownership. There is also a possibility that you could change your mind about your prepaid arrangements and want to have the right to sell the plot back to the cemetery or to another person. The laws of each state determine the rules for prepaying and some state laws offer little or no protection.
If you decide to prepay for your final arrangements, use caution when selecting the plan and service provider. Keep records of the contracted details of your plan and of agreed upon costs. Be sure to leave copies of the preplanning contract and payment documentation with your loved ones and with your attorney.
Preplanning a funeral or memorial service does not necessarily involve prepaying the expenses. Prepaying for these arrangements is generally not recommended, unless death is expected in the near future.
When selecting a prepayment plan, be certain to consider:
1. The funeral home's reputation: Because there are no guarantees that any particular company will stay in business, check to see that the funeral home is reputable, is licensed, and has been around for a while.
2. Financial security: Make sure that the money you pay is held in a separate trust account and is not subject to the funeral home's creditors.
3. Refund options: Find out if your money will be refunded if you change your mind or if the company goes out of business.
4. Price stability: Ask if the price is guaranteed no matter what happens with costs over the years.
Selecting a Funeral Home
There is not a legal requirement to use a funeral home to plan and conduct a funeral or memorial service or to make burial arrangements. However, many people find comfort in using a funeral provider because of their experience with the many details and legal requirements involved in arranging for these services.
The following are some of the services funeral homes may offer:
- Providing facilities for memorial service or funeral
- Dealing with necessary paperwork to enable burial or cremation
- Providing information to family and friends
- Placing obituaries in newspapers
- Setting up a catered meal at another location following the funeral
- Arranging special musical requests
- Ordering and caring for floral tributes on behalf of family and friends
- Accepting donations for named charities
- Arranging for vehicles and staff for funeral and graveside services
- Making arrangements for transfer of remains for funeral and burial services
- Recording donations received
- Keeping record of persons who attended any funeral or memorial service at the funeral home
People who limit their search for a funeral provider to one funeral home may risk having a limited choice of services or paying more than they have to for the services. Preplanning allows for a comparison of funeral products and services.
Start your preplanning research by telephoning a number of funeral homes to ask questions about their practices and pricing. Many funeral homes will mail you their price lists if you request cost information. Of course, you may also choose to visit the funeral home in person and talk directly with the provider about options that are available.
There are many things to consider when selecting the services of a funeral provider, including:
- Whether the funeral home has a license to provide services
- The specific services and costs provided by the funeral home
- How parking and other needs are managed
- The appearance and location of the funeral home
- The ability of the funeral home to serve the expected number of guests
- Specific personal, cultural and faith-based beliefs that are to be considered
- Whether the funeral home has had a history of complaints against it
Many funeral homes offer various packages of commonly selected items and services that make up a funeral. However, you have the right to buy individual items and services and do not have to accept a package that includes things you do not want. Offering funeral packages is permitted by law, as long as an itemized price list is also provided.
When comparing prices, be sure to consider the individual prices as well as the total cost of all the items and services you select. Funeral homes should have price lists that include all of the items and services needed for the different types of arrangements that are offered.
If it turns out that loved ones do not like the funeral home originally chosen in the preplanning process, they are permitted to switch to another funeral provider. If the initial funeral home has already started to provide services, they can charge for those services, but they cannot delay the transfer of the body to another funeral provider.
Selecting a Burial Site
If you have not decided what should be done with your remains ahead of time, loved ones may find themselves rushed to buy a cemetery plot or grave without enough time to carefully consider costs and the needs of those who are likely to visit the site. Preplanning a funeral or memorial service should also include making arrangements for the remains.
Burial in a cemetery plot or entombment in a mausoleum can be expensive, especially in urban areas. There will be initial burial charges and fees for ongoing maintenance services. Church cemeteries or town-owned cemeteries may be the least expensive option. If you are a veteran, a burial plot and marker in a national cemetery are offered free to you, your spouse and minor children.
The expenses for entombment of cremated remains in a mausoleum or columbarium typically include the purchase of a vault or chamber, opening and closing fees, and any ongoing fees for care and other services.
Consider the following questions when selecting a burial site:
1. Does the burial site meet any faith-based requirements?
2. What are the initial burial charges?
3. Are there fees for ongoing services, such as plot maintenance and grounds keeping?
4. What types of monuments or memorials are allowed?
5. Can flowers or other remembrance items be placed at the burial site?
6. Are the location of the cemetery and the visitation hours convenient for your loved ones?
Writing Down and Storing Preplanning Wishes
At the time of death, information about the choices you made during the preplanning of your funeral or memorial service will be needed quickly. For this reason, the preplanning information should be written down and stored somewhere easily accessible by family and the person you have selected to carry out your wishes.
Include details about your choices, such as:
- The type of service you want
- Where you want the service to be held
- Names of people you want contacted about the service
- Names of people you would like to participate in the service
- Preferences about flowers, music and donations
- Specific personal, cultural and spiritual considerations
Be certain that the right people know where the funeral preplanning information is stored. Your will is not the best place to provide funeral preplanning information because the will is not likely to be read soon enough following your death. Storing this information in your safe deposit box is also not recommended because safe deposit boxes are typically sealed upon death, and the contents are then not accessible for a period of time.
Some states have proxy designation laws that allow you, through specific written and signed instructions, to designate or name a "proxy," or someone who can make decisions about your remains after death. The designated proxy can be a family member, other loved one or a close friend. If you are interested in designating a proxy to legally make these decisions, talk with an attorney. Find out if your state has a proxy designation law and how you can legally provide the written instructions required by the state.
A preplanned funeral or memorial service can assist loved ones with many of the difficult decisions that must be made at the end of life. Keep in mind that the best arrangements are those that provide comfort and peace of mind for both you and your loved ones.
If the funeral preplanning process seems too difficult to do alone, ask for help from a trusted family member, friend or professional, such as a clergy person or attorney. If even thinking about your own funeral or memorial service is too difficult or upsetting, the planning can be left to loved ones. In that case, sharing a copy of this document with them will help them understand the options and the types of decisions that will have to be made.
This document was produced in collaboration with:
David S. Landay, Esq., author of Be Prepared, The Complete Financial, Legal and Practical Guide for Living with Cancer, HIV and Other Life-Challenging Conditions.
Carlson, Lisa. Caring for Your Own Dead. Hinesburg, VT: Upper Access, 1987.
Cullen, Melanie. "Planning Your Funeral or Memorial Services." Nolo.com. 3 August 2006.
Federal Trade Commission. Facts for Consumers and Funeral Rule - 16 CFR Part 453: Text of the Funeral Industry Practices Trade Regulation Rule. 2006.
Jarman, W. Brad. "Resting in Peace: An Analysis of Disposition of Remains Laws." GMHC.com. July 2004. Gay Men's Health Crisis. 8 September 2006
Landay, David S. Be Prepared, The Complete Financial, Legal and Practical Guide to Living with Cancer, HIV and Other Life-Challenging Conditions. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998.
Solomon, Christopher. "How to plan an $800 funeral." MSN Money. 7 April 2006. www.moneycentral.msn.com
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Funeral and Memorial Service Preplanning: Suggestions
The suggestions that follow are based on the information presented in the Detailed Information document. They are meant to help you take what you learn and apply the information to your own needs. This information is not intended nor should it be interpreted as providing professional medical, legal and financial advice. You should consult a trained professional for more information. Please read the Additional Resources document for links to more resources.
The following steps will help you start the funeral or memorial service preplanning process:
1. Think about what kind of service you want:
- Do you want a funeral or memorial service?
- Do you want a service that is more "traditional," or one that reflects personal ideas?
2. Consider the costs:
- How much do you believe is appropriate to spend?
- How much money do you or your family have available to spend?
- What are the costs for things like caskets, cremation, burial plans and ceremony choices?
- Which option is less expensive: purchasing a package of options, or purchasing only the items you really want?
- Are there charges for other services and merchandise, such as preparation, use of funeral home, use of equipment and staff for a graveside services, or use of a limousine?
3. When you select a person to oversee your funeral or memorial service, ask yourself:
- Is the person you have chosen to oversee your service aware of your wishes and willing to take responsibility for following them?
- Have you considered becoming a member of a funeral or memorial society?
- Have you provided all of the needed information and documentation to the person you have chosen?
If you are considering the services of a funeral home, the following are questions to ask a funeral home director:
- What information is needed by the funeral home to make arrangements following a death?
- What services or funeral items are required by state law?
- What are the individual services offered and how much does each cost?
- What are the funeral home's prices for specific funeral items? These can include caskets, outer burial containers, urns, urn vaults, flowers, monuments and headstones.
- What other expenses can be expected? These may include expenses for cemetery, newspaper, honoraria (money gifts to clergy, organist, and soloist), transport expenses and the required government death certificate.
To start the preplanning process, think about what you want included, or not included, in your funeral or memorial service.
Ask yourself questions, such as:
- Is there a preference for a simple or elaborate service?
- Will this be a public or private service?
- Will the service be faith-based?
- Where will the service be held?
- Will there be a viewing or visitation?
- Will there be a casket?
- Will there be flowers?
If you are in the process of selecting a burial site, consider the following questions:
- Will this site fit your faith-based beliefs?
- Is there an important family tradition related to the burial site?
- Is the burial site convenient for visits by your loved ones?
- Are there plots nearby for purchase by your loved ones?
- What are the charges for opening and closing a grave?
- What is the charge for upkeep ("perpetual care") of the site?
- Are containers or vaults required?
- If containers are required, what type is needed and what is the cost?
- Are the visitation hours convenient for loved ones?
- What type of burial site marker (size, style, material and supplier) is allowed?
- What types of plantings and flowers are allowed?
- Are there any policies about seasonal decorations?
Find out if you qualify for any burial benefits by checking all federal and state government programs for which you qualify, as well as each organization to which you belong.
Documenting your preplanning wishes and providing information can be a simple process. For example, a handwritten letter left for loved ones may be all that is needed to share your wishes.
Include information, such as:
- The type of service you want, such as viewing, funeral or memorial service
- Where you want the service to be held
- Who should be notified and any necessary contact information for those people
- Names of people you want to be pallbearers, if any
- Whether you want to be buried, cremated or any other preference
- Any faith-based elements you want included in the service or burial
- Who you want to handle the service or arrangements
- Names of potential speakers and who you want to give the eulogy
- If there will be a casket, preference for open or closed
- Clothing choices, jewelry and any special items that you would like to have displayed
- Special music, readings, flower preferences
- Where donations should be directed
- Any special messages or memories that you would want shared
- Any other specific arrangements for guests
- Information for obituary notes, including photo and places to be published
If your state has a proxy designation law, you may want to find out how you can legally name a proxy to make decisions about your remains after death.
Talk with family and loved ones about any interests you have in donating your body to medical science or becoming an organ or tissue donor. There are a number of good Web sites that provide information and answers to frequently asked questions about organ and tissue donation. Some sites provide a card that you can print out, sign and carry in your wallet. A member of your medical team or a hospital social worker can also direct you to further resources regarding tissue, organ or body donation.
Discuss your ideas about funeral arrangements with trusted loved ones. Find out what their feelings are, and tell them what would be important to you. If it is difficult for your family to talk about this subject, you can talk to an attorney, trusted friend, counselor or faith-based advisor about your wishes.
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The resources listed below provide more detailed information and support services to help you with funeral and memorial service preplanning. Please read the Detailed Information and Suggestions document for more information and questions to ask.
Click a resource for more information:
LIVESTRONG Navigation Services
Online: Complete an intake form through the LIVESTRONG website.
Phone: 1.855.220.7777 (English and Spanish)
Navigators are available for calls Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Central Time). Voicemail is available after hours.
LIVESTRONG offers assistance to anyone affected by cancer, including the person diagnosed, loved ones, caregivers and friends. The program provides information about fertility risks and preservation options, treatment choices, health literacy and matching to clinical trials. Emotional support services, peer-to-peer matching and assistance with financial, employment and insurance issues are also available. To provide these services, LIVESTRONG has partnered with several organizations including Imerman Angels, Navigate Cancer Foundation, Patient Advocate Foundation and EmergingMed.
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||Send email through the Web site.
||1-888-OUR AARP (1-888-687-2277)
||Calls are answered Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. to midnight (EST).
AARP is a nonprofit organization for people over the age of 50. The AARP Web site includes information on a number of financial and practical subjects, and you do not have to be an AARP member or over the age of 50 to access these articles. Information on end of life and funeral planning includes funeral and memorial planning, checklists of legal and financial steps to take after a loved one dies, and suggestions for managing feelings of grief and loss. Additional information is provided for those wanting to preplan their own funeral services or create advance directives or wills. You can also use the Web site to request help with finding affordable legal services. Some information on the site is available in Spanish.
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Federal Trade Commission
||Send an email through the Web site.
||1-877-FTC HELP (1-800-382-4357)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the governmental agency that oversees many consumer protection issues, including credit reporting, identity theft, fair debt collection processes and other credit issues. The FTC Web site provides information on a variety of subjects, including buying a car, investing, preventing identity theft, choosing a credit card, and managing credit problems. Through the site, you can also file a complaint about a business transaction or report identity theft. Current information about filing for bankruptcy, dealing with creditors and repairing your credit history is also provided. Information on the site is available in Spanish.
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The Gift of a Lifetime
This educational Web site about organ and tissue transplants offers interactive demonstrations and written information about the transplant procedure. If you are considering becoming an organ or tissue donor, you can find out more about registering as a donor and talking about your decision with your family. The site also offers lesson plans and activities for teachers to use in the classroom.
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Organdonor.gov is the official U.S. Government Web site for organ and tissue donation and transplantation. This Web site provides information and fact sheets about organ donation. Answers to frequently asked questions are included, as well as an organ donor card that you can print out, sign and carry in your wallet. Links to other organ donation sites are provided. Some information on the site is available in Spanish.
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Social Security Online
||Send email through the Web site
||TTY for deaf and hard of hearing callers: 1-800-325-0778
||Calls are answered Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Social Security Online is the official Web site of the federal Social Security Administration, which oversees both Social Security and Medicare. From this site, you can access information and print out forms that relate to all aspects of Social Security and Medicare, including finding out what benefits you qualify for, applying for benefits and requesting information about Social Security policies or procedures. The site also includes information on how to apply for burial funds or survivor's benefits after a loved one's death, as well as how to find out what your benefits your survivors are entitled to if you die. Information is available in many different languages, including Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, Farsi, French, Greek, Haitian-Creole, Italian, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese.
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Better Business Bureau
||Send email through the Web site.
The Better Business Bureau is a nonprofit organization that promotes consumer and business education. Through the Web site, you can check a company's record with the Better Business Bureau and see if any consumer complaints have been filed against the business. You can also find information about consumer protection laws and tips on choosing a business or service provider. If you have a problem with a business, you can contact the Better Business Bureau to request dispute resolution or file a complaint.
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U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
||Send email through the Web site.
||TTY for deaf and hard of hearing callers: 1-800-829-4833
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs oversees benefits to nearly 25 million men and women who have served in the military during wars or official periods of conflict. If you are a veteran or the spouse or child of a veteran, you can contact this agency for information about your benefits. The Web site has information about burial and memorial benefits and procedures, including information about eligibility, making arrangements in advance, survivor benefits and requesting a free burial flag for a veteran. Special circumstances such as burial at sea or burial in a national cemetery are also covered.
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