Is a Funeral Director Really Necessary?

 

In short, yes. We hear this question often from families choosing a direct cremation for their loved ones. Perhaps there’s still some attachment to the traditional idea of what a funeral director’s job is – to do the embalming and take the casket to church and to the cemetery for burial. So since a direct cremation involves none of these things, it makes sense to ask whether or not a funeral director is necessary for a simple disposition such as a direct cremation.

The key word, though, is “disposition.” In the eyes of the law, cremation is considered as much a form of disposition as burial or entombment, perhaps even more so considering the fact that cremation is irreversible. As funeral directors, we are licensed specifically to oversee the disposition of any individual who has died, regardless of the type chosen by the family.

For the same reasons that a family cannot schedule and conduct a burial of a family member without a funeral director, a family cannot bring their loved one to the crematory without a funeral director. And as you might imagine, there is much more to the process than simply being present for the cremation. Your funeral director is responsible for completing and obtaining the death certificate in conjunction with medical professionals, obtaining the necessary permits for the cremation per state law, and obtaining specific written authorizations from family members so that everyone is legally protected. Your funeral director is also responsible for working directly with the crematory to ensure that their standards of operation meet the highest criteria possible. They act as an advocate for your family.

It’s important to remember that a major part of a funeral director’s job is to assist your family in putting together a fitting tribute for your loved one following the cremation. To many folks who are used to the traditional order of events, this probably seems a bit backwards. But we’re serving more and more families who are electing to hold a service at a later date that is more convenient for them, and this provides a greater opportunity to carefully personalize the tribute and involve everyone who wishes to participate. While a funeral director is not legally required to be present for the burial or scattering of cremated remains, he or she will be an invaluable resource to your family during the tribute planning process.

We’ve designed Simple Cremation of New Jersey with your family’s independence in mind. It is the only legal way to complete a cremation for your loved one without using a traditional funeral home in New Jersey. Your family is in control of how much or how little our funeral directors are involved with the tribute that follows. We believe an option like that is long overdue.

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An Important Note About Mailing Cremated Remains

 

The United States Post Office has made a significant change to their procedure for mailing cremated remains domestically. In the past, cremated remains were typically shipped as Registered Mail and the package was scanned as it arrived at and departed from each sorting facility along its journey.

Now, cremated remains are to be shipped Priority Mail Express service only, and Registered Mail service is no longer an option – and the cremated remains are treated as a regular package. The sender is still provided with a tracking number for the package that they can pass along to the recipient, but the package is now only scanned at its original departure, its arrival at the postal facility, and once received by the family at its final destination.

Also, it’s important to note that if the package containing cremated remains are unclaimed by the recipient after a period of two weeks, the package will be returned to the sender. 

This is important information because mailing cremated remains to your family is a standard service of Simple Cremation of New Jersey – we work with the crematory to ensure cremated remains are mailed directly from their facility to your family, and part of that requires familiarity with the process of mailing. When it comes to such precious cargo as this, any small change in the rules is worth talking about. We also know that families sometimes use the post office to transport loved ones’ cremated remains to other locations when traveling with the package is not practical, so everyone should be familiar with these new rules. The USPS is currently the only carrier that will deliver cremated remains. 

The good news is that there is no change to the cost for mailing cremated remains to your family – and the USPS procedure for mailing internationally (which we also do) has not changed.

Have you ever mailed cremated remains or received them in the mail? What was the experience like for you?

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The Extra Trip — And What it’s Going to Cost Your Family

 

Did you know that New Jersey is one of only a few states in which a funeral home cannot own a crematory or cemetery? It’s actually pretty common in other parts of the country for a funeral home to perform cremations on premises or be located on the same property as a cemetery. As with many other things that are common across the country, it’s illegal in New Jersey.

One of the major reasons New Jersey law does not allow a setup like that is to prevent a monopoly by a single company. Here, cemeteries are usually operated either by a cemetery company (such as CMS) or by a house of worship (such as a church who owns the cemetery property or by the local Archdiocese). You will, however, find that most crematories operate within existing non-religious cemeteries and are under the jurisdiction of the New Jersey State Cemetery Board.

So what does this mean?

Well, perhaps the most obvious answer is the fact that the funeral director must make a special trip to the crematory—wherever it is located – to have a cremation completed. It means that the funeral director has a greater responsibility to ensure that the crematory’s policies and procedures are above par, and that their documentation coincides with everything the funeral home has provided to them.

This extra work typically means the cost is passed on to your family. Simple Cremation of New Jersey includes ALL transportation and documentation in the $799 package so your family doesn’t pay anything extra. However, this is not the case with all funeral homes. It’s an important question to ask when interviewing funeral homes to potentially serve your family.

We have chosen to work with Rosedale Crematory, located within the grounds of Rosedale Cemetery in Montclair, New Jersey. No, they’re not exactly right around the block—but we believe the quality of their care is worth the trip. Because we have included all transportation costs in our package price, we have the flexibility to be extremely selective about which crematory we work with, without regard to its location as we are not passing along any additional cost to your family.

Have you ever worked with a funeral home that has a crematory or cemetery on premises? What do you think are the advantages or disadvantages?

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Can I Get a Witness: Simple Cremation of New Jersey’s “No Drop-Off” Policy

Last week’s blog explained our Posi-ID Portal and how it fits into our policies regarding positive identification of a person before the cremation. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Anyone who remembers the infamous crime scene at a Georgia crematory back in 2002 can imagine what a serious task funeral directors face in restoring the trust of the public when it comes to ensuring their loved ones’ wishes are honored. Sure, there are always a few bad apples in the bunch. That incident in Georgia was less of a blemish on the industry and more of an incurable, festering carbuncle that needs to be amputated.

Enter Simple Cremation of New Jersey’s No Drop-Off Policy.

Requiring your family to positively identify your loved one before the cremation is important, but how much good does it do if we don’t cover all the bases after that? Your family has entrusted us to care for your loved one and to see the process through as far as possible. We are your advocates. So if we were to bring your loved one to the crematory only to tell the crematory staff to do the cremation “when they have time” (which, frighteningly, many do), haven’t we just unraveled everything?

Unfortunately, this is another “norm” we see among funeral homes. There is no law in New Jersey that requires a licensed funeral director to witness the cremation – they are only required to be there when the individual is brought to the crematory. Don’t get us wrong, if we didn’t trust the crematory we work with, we wouldn’t be working with them. But it comes down to professional responsibility. We believe that simply dropping off your loved one does not fulfill the spirit of the task you have trusted us to complete.

Like we said in last week’s blog, convenience is not in our vocabulary when it comes to something like this. It doesn’t matter how many families we are serving at a given time. When a family has completed their positive identification, our funeral directors call the crematory to make an appointment for an open retort (cremation chamber). Our funeral directors personally transport the individual to the crematory at the specified date and time. They review the paperwork and double check that all the identification (both on documents and on metal tags) is identical. Our funeral directors do not leave the crematory until they have physically watched the individual be placed into the designated cremation chamber, have seen the chamber door closed, and the process initiated.  

This obviously takes significantly more time than many funeral homes are used to spending at the crematory. But tell us what that extra time is worth when we can call a family to say “I accompanied Mom to the crematory today for our appointment, and I can personally assure you that she arrived safely and that the cremation was underway before I left the building” and actually mean it.

When you trust Simple Cremation of New Jersey with the care of someone you love, you’re not just getting a cremation. You’re getting a commitment from professionals who take pride in providing peace of mind when it matters most. We are serious about what we do, and we believe that a cremation without these extra assurances is simply a job left unfinished. Your family deserves more than that.

We always want to know how we can improve our service to your family. In what other ways would you like to see us expand on these policies?

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What’s the Posi-ID Portal and why is Simple Cremation of NJ the only service to offer it?

Ask anyone you know about cremation and one of the first concerns you’ll hear from them is the fear of not getting the right ashes back. There have been quite a few horror stories in the media about this type of thing so it’s no surprise that it’s such a sticking point.

As funeral directors, we work hard every day to relieve our families’ anxiety about the cremation process and to help them raise their expectations of funeral service. One of the most important ways we do this is by going above and beyond what the law requires when it comes to identification.

As crazy as it sounds, there is no law in New Jersey that requires the family to positively identify their loved one before the cremation takes place. Unfortunately, many funeral homes rely on good faith (or sometimes less than that) to ensure that the person they are about to bring to the crematory is in fact the correct person. Since there are no laws being broken, the funeral home probably feels they’re meeting the requirements. Maybe it’s laziness, maybe it’s logistics. Maybe the family never asked for it, or the funeral home doesn’t acknowledge the possibility of human error. Who knows — but at Simple Cremation of New Jersey, that’s just not good enough.

We not only provide your family with the opportunity to identify your loved one before the cremation, but we also require it. It is our policy, and it is non-negotiable. We simply will not perform a cremation until we have received a positive family identification. It is by no means the easy thing to do by adding a step to an already difficult process. But don’t we, both as funeral directors and as families, deserve to sleep at night knowing that we did the right thing? That kind of peace of mind is worth the extra step, and our families agree.

To that end, we have developed something called the Posi-ID Portal on our website. The Posi-ID Portal was designed to allow your family to complete the identification of your loved one privately and securely from your own home. Once your loved one is in our care at the funeral home, we take photograph of them. To protect your family’s privacy, we will not send such sensitive information to you through email or text messages. Instead, the photograph is uploaded into the Portal and your family receives unique login information. Using this information, your family can access the Portal and view the photograph for only a few seconds before responding. The entire process takes about 5 minutes (and no, there is no additional cost for this). Once we receive your response, the photograph is deleted and the login information becomes invalid. We believe this is the most private and secure way to complete this step, and our families have found tremendous value in this unique service of Simple Cremation of New Jersey.

All this is not to mention our No Drop-Off Policy for cremation, which is another way we set ourselves apart from other cremation services and funeral homes – but that’s a blog for another day.

Let us know what you think. Do you agree with us that it’s kind of insane that NJ law doesn’t require family identification? Have you ever had a negative experience with a cremation or funeral that could have been avoided with a little extra legwork?

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Bradley Funeral Homes and Imagine co-sponsoring Hospice Foundation of America’s 2014 Spring Program – Living with Grief: Helping Adolescents Cope with Loss

By Scott W. Bradley

I am very excited to announce that Bradley Funeral Homes is once again co-hosting the Hospice Foundation of America’s live streaming webcast on April 10th.  The topic this year is helping adolescents with loss.  This year’s panelists, amongst the other excellent speakers, consist of two of my most highly regarded speakers on the subject of adolescent loss, grief and mourning: Ken Doka and Donna Schuurman.  If you work with adolescents please attend, as I know you will learn something new in an enjoyable atmosphere.  The panel is always well chosen for the topic and Ken Doka keeps the conversation lively and engaging.  I have personal knowledge of this as I was honored to be a panelist in 2007 on the subject of Living with Grief: Before and After the Death.

The webcast will be shown from 2:00pm to 4:30pm and followed up with a half-hour discussion with a panel of local specialists in adolescent bereavement and grief.  Mary Robinson, founder and Executive Director of Imagine, and I will be among the local panelists.  The host facility has not been finalized so stay tuned and we’ll let you know the convenient location to attend as soon as we can. 

This program is intended for professionals who already work in some form or fashion with bereaved adolescents such as clergy, mental health professionals, medical professionals, counselors, funeral directors and social workers.  Participants will explore the developmental context of adolescence; different adolescent encounters with death and the ways each may affect their development; how different systems such as family, schools and counselors may help adolescents cope with loss; and what support professionals may need while supporting adolescents as they mourn.

This program is pre-approved for 3 CEU’s in New Jersey by the NJ Board of Mortuary Science, Association of Social Work Boards, National Association of Social Workers, Association for Death Education and Counseling and the American Nurses Credentialing Center Commission.

For more information please visit: http://www.hospicefoundation.org/2014springprogram or contact me at scott@bradleyfuneralhomes.com or call me at (973) 635-2428 ext. 105. Please visit the HFA site to order the comprehensive 392-page companion book to the webcast.

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4 Benefits of Planning a Cremation in Advance

Knowledge is Power.

The importance of doing your homework when it comes to planning funeral or cremation arrangements cannot be understated. As a savvy consumer, you would likely never purchase a new appliance, take a vacation to a foreign country, or send your child to a university without doing thorough research about it beforehand. Taking the time to compare the options and prices will help you make a more informed decision. You have the chance to ask more questions and as a result you’ll be more confident in your choices.

You Know What to Expect.

The passing of a loved one is a scary thought. Not surprisingly, many people avoid thinking about this inevitability until they have no choice. Part of what makes the idea of funeral or cremation arrangements so scary is the fact that most people really don’t know what to expect. They may have never planned a cremation before and find themselves having to make important decisions during times of intense emotional stress. Planning in advance relieves much of this anxiety. Something as simple as a phone conversation with your Funeral Director can restore your confidence and allow you to focus on caring for your family.

Your Kids Will Thank You … Later.

Most of us have seen or heard about a situation like this before – Someone passes away, and their children or other relatives are forced to make difficult decisions on the spot. There’s panic, confusion, and often a good deal of conflict (“Who should we be calling right now?” “How are we going to pay for this?”) Planning a cremation in advance, and even paying for it in advance, is really the only way to dodge this bullet. As difficult as it may be, try to involve other family members in an honest conversation during the planning process. Make them aware of your choices and give them the tools they will need to follow through with your wishes. It’s a gift that they probably won’t want, but they’ll thank you for it later.

Get Back in the Driver’s Seat.

Planning your own cremation arrangements in advance is really the best way to ensure that your wishes will be honored when the time comes. We’ve made it easy for you to complete your selections down to the smallest detail, all from the privacy of your own home. While of course we advocate involving family members in this process (or at the very least just informing them of your decisions), we also believe in the value of maintaining control over your cremation arrangements, without the “hard sell” of many traditional funeral homes. Simple Cremation of New Jersey’s cremation arrangement tools are the closest you can come to getting rid of the middleman.

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Can I Pre-Pay My Simple Cremation Arrangements?

So we’ve already made it as easy as humanly possible to plan an affordable cremation in advance using our online tools—if you haven’t checked them out yet, you can do so by clicking here.

Whether you planned the cremation for a loved one in New Jersey or for yourself, the next logical question is how to make sure the money is set aside until you actually need it. We have that covered too.

In New Jersey, money paid in advance for a cremation service or funeral service is deposited into a trust fund (it’s illegal for funeral homes in New Jersey to mix your money with theirs). At Simple Cremation of New Jersey we use something called CHOICES, which is the New Jersey Prepaid Funeral Trust Fund. It’s FDIC insured and is operated by the New Jersey State Funeral Directors’ Association.

After completing one additional form (we help you do that too), your family’s money is deposited into the trust fund where it is pooled with hundreds of thousands of other families’ funds. Why would the money be pooled like that? Because it earns pretty serious interest that way. Enough interest, in fact, that it may help in offsetting the cost of inflation over several years.

Opening a funeral trust fund like this for your family is completely free and you have access to the daily balance in the account 24/7 by visiting the CHOICES website. And most importantly, the money will be there for you when it’s time to use it. Instead of worrying about payment to Simple Cremation of New Jersey at the time of need, we help your family with the cremation service immediately and then we bill the trust fund.

There really is no downside to paying for your cremation in advance. Once you’ve made all your selections on our website, give us a call and we’ll help you through the last step of payment. It can’t get much more simple than that. And the best part? You never have to think about it again.

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Top 10 Reasons for Choosing Cremation – The Grand Finale

Last week we brought you Reasons #10-6 for choosing cremation. As promised, this week is the conclusion ending with the #1 Reason… read on!

5. A Shift in Perspective.

We’ve noticed a definite transition in what families find most important when someone dies. In the past, funeral services were more focused on the person’s body which is why funerals with embalming and open-casket visitations were the norm for so long.

More and more families, however, are shifting their focus away from the person’s body and towards the memory of their life as a whole. Perhaps from a spiritual standpoint it means that more families see their loved one’s soul or spirit as being separate from their body rather than permanently tied to it. This would explain why we are seeing many families choose a simple disposition such as cremation followed by more elaborate and personalized tributes and memorial services later on.

4. Time.  

Even with the option of embalming, a traditional funeral service is usually bound to a timetable. Family members often need to travel on short notice to attend funeral services, and unfortunately this is not always possible. Cremation services are a great option for families who would prefer to plan a tribute or memorial service at a time that is convenient for everyone. Once the direct cremation has taken place, families can take as much time as they need to plan the perfect tribute or memorial service at a time and place that works for everyone in the family, so no one has to miss it.

3. Cost.

It’s no secret that a cremation service can be significantly less expensive than burial. In addition to the expense of purchasing a grave at a cemetery, most families don’t know that there is an additional cost to open and close the grave for the burial itself which often runs between $1k-$2k (not to mention Saturday and O/T costs depending on when the funeral service happens). The cost for cremation, on the other hand, generally does not involve such high “third party” expenses and can be much more affordable. The crematory/crematorium usually charges a few hundred dollars for the cremation process itself, and families can select an alternative container for the cremation rather than buying a traditional casket.

2. Logistics.

These days more and more families are spread out all over the country and sometimes even farther than that. Between work, family, and financial restraints, it’s not always feasible for everyone to drop what they’re doing and travel into town for a traditional funeral service when someone dies (Can you get a flight in time? How much will that cost? Where will you stay while you’re in town?).

The direct cremation can take place in New Jersey and the cremated remains can actually be mailed to family members who are unable to physically travel to New Jersey – in fact, this is a standard service of Simple Cremation of New Jersey.

And the number one reason our families choose cremation…..

1. K.I.S.S.

We hear this over and over: “I just want something simple.”

Cremation often fits the bill for families seeking an uncomplicated, no-fuss disposition. Our goal at Simple Cremation of NJ is to provide this convenience to families all over the world with an online interface that’s designed to streamline the entire process and with a price point that is sensitive to families’ priorities.

We would love to know how we did with this top ten list. What did we miss? Do you disagree with any of them?

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Top 10 Reasons Families Choose Cremation

In case you haven’t been keeping up with the statistics (and why would you), cremation continues to grow in popularity as the preferred method of disposition in New Jersey and across the United States. By the year 2017, according to Time Magazine, one of every two individuals in the U.S. will choose cremation.

So what’s the appeal? What accounts for this massive shift away from cemetery burial? We’ve put together the top 10 reasons we hear most often from families who choose cremation services in New Jersey– this week’s blog is Part 1 of 2.

10. You’re Not Tied to Real Estate.

We’ve heard this from many families who don’t like the idea of burial: “I don’t want to feel tied to a specific place.”

Photo Credit: www.sharonojala.com

Some people may feel an obligation to stay geographically close to where their family members are buried. Others don’t. There are still others who go so far as to relocate their buried loved ones to new cemeteries if they have to move out of New Jersey.

We’ve found that families who select cremation in New Jersey sometimes prefer the idea of being able to keep their loved one’s cremated remains with them no matter where they live. Others prefer the idea of scattering the remains in a natural setting, such as the ocean, where they will integrate with the environment over time.

Jolly Green Giant or the Incredible Hulk?

9. Environmental Considerations.

It’s hard to overlook the fact that traditional burial has an environmental impact, and some families may choose a simple cremation for the purpose of minimizing their carbon footprint even after death. Of course, this issue is up for debate – we’ve heard compelling arguments on both sides. One thing is for sure, though — a cemetery requires acres of land for the same number of dispositions that can be accommodated by a single crematorium.

8. No Need to Stay Local.

It’s a fact– families today are more spread out than they were 100 years ago. Let’s say mom passes away at a long-term care facility in New Jersey, but her only son and his family live out in Arizona. It might not make sense for them to travel out to New Jersey for funeral services if there is no family there.

You are here.

Instead of paying the funeral home thousands of dollars to fly out mom in her casket on an airplane (and then paying another funeral home in Arizona to pick her up), the cremation process can be completed in New Jersey and her cremains can be mailed right to her son in Arizona for memorial services. Shipping of cremains with Simple Cremation of New Jersey is $60.

7. Family Tradition.

Sometimes it’s just that simple. Just like some families have always had dogs as pets instead of cats, there are families who have always just preferred cremation services over burial.

Even the oldest traditions are sometimes broken.

On the flip side, we are also meeting more and more families – particularly the younger generations – who are breaking away from longstanding family traditions of burial and planning a cremation for themselves.

6. Options.

The possibilities are endless for cremains. They can be buried, placed in a niche in a columbarium, kept in a special place at home, scattered either on land or at sea, worn as cremation jewelry, even incorporated into a memorial painting, sent into outer space or turned into a diamond… the list goes on.

There's something for everyone.

The best part is that any combination of these is possible. Since cremated remains can be separated into different sized portions, families can choose to do more than one of these things. For example, a family may choose to keep a small portion to be placed in a memorial cremation necklace and bury the rest in the family plot using an urn vault. Perhaps there are three children who would each like to keep a portion of their dad’s cremains — and mom and dad’s cremains can even be put together if the family chooses.

It’s hard to make everyone happy, but we have found that families who choose cremation services are able to accommodate the unique wishes of more family members because of this flexibility.

Next week’s blog will feature our Top 5 Reasons, including the number one reason for choosing cremation. How is our list so far? What are your predictions for next week?

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