Expect extra costs when planning a funeral

This was originally published on Monday, September 8, 2014, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

No one wants to think about the death of a loved one or planning a funeral. Funerals can be quite expensive. The basic funeral service can start at $3,000. A little advance planning and some basic life insurance can help. These are a few things to consider:

• Rosaries: As most of the island is Catholic, rosaries are part of our culture. If you are having the rosaries at church, there will be costs for utilizing the church and sometimes for using the air conditioner. If you are having the rosaries at a home, you may need to think about canopy, chair and table rentals. It is customary that the family will serve food after the rosaries. Some families opt to serve only on the last day of rosaries. Decide if your family will be cooking, catering or accepting dishes from family and friends, or maybe a combination of the three, to serve your guests.

• Viewing services: Another customary event is the viewing of the body before the funeral, typically called a family viewing. This can happen a day or two before the funeral services. Family members usually serve light refreshments or lunch for those who attend. Consider the costs of food and drinks and if the funeral home will charge extra for this event. Some families may choose to hold a traditional night-long viewing at a home. Once again, consider the cost of food, canopies, chairs and tables.

• Cremation versus burial: This decision is usually made by the deceased prior to passing. There are costs associated no matter which decision is made.

Cremation is usually less expensive. Costs can vary depending on what the family or deceased wants. A casket is not needed but usually an enclosed combustible container is needed to transport the deceased. If the funeral home does not have provisions for cremation, they may use a crematorium.

If the wish is to have a viewing service before cremation, a casket can be rented. There may be a cost to dress and apply makeup to the deceased before the viewing. You have the option of cremation before or after the funeral. If the wish is to have the deceased present at the funeral, there may be some costs for embalming, making them presentable, and the casket rental.

How the cremains are handled after cremation will also determine the cost. Some choose to be buried with other family members. There will be a cost for unearthing the grave and burying the ashes. The cremains also can be placed in a cremation garden or in a columbarium or in a mausoleum.

In some cases, the deceased may wish to have the cremains scattered over a place that is special to them. A permit may be needed to perform this. If the cremains are to be scattered out at sea or by plane, there will be costs associated to rent a boat or plane.

Another option is to have the cremains placed in an urn. Families can choose to have the cremains divided among loved ones. You may choose the vessel in which to keep the cremains. You don’t have to use the one that is offered to you. If the cremains are going to be transferred to Guam or off-island, be sure to have the proper documents. Cremains can be mailed or hand carried on a plane. If the cremains are being hand carried, the vessel shouldn’t be metal. It will have to go through the security check point and will be X-rayed.

Although cremation can get costly, it still is less expensive than a traditional funeral. Some veterans have the option of the Navy or Coast Guard to scatter the cremains at sea. This usually is done without cost, but the family may not be able to witness the occasion.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at moneymattersguam@yahoo.com and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.

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