Saturday, June 25, 2011



Why? well, were do I start. Your talking about two totally different directions that you take after a death to reach a final disposition. That being the end of the handling of remains and conclusion of all religious services or rights of passage.

Lets look at Burial.

  • Pick up the body
  • meet with the family
  • select a casket
  • family meet with the cemetery
  • do the paperwork
  • call the church
  • order all the stuff
  • make the book and folders
  • prepare the body
  • order the flowers
  • hold the visitation
  • hold the service
  • load the hearse
  • hold the procession
  • unload the hearse
  • burial
Burial is a ritual that is full of tradition and religious value to some. In the beginning it was a simple way of disposing of a set of human remains at a specific location or just about anywhere to prevent the foul odor of the decaying body from being offensive to others. It also afforded friends and family the opportunity to go and reflect and remember the deceased. Now, is this documented as the real reason? probably not. But if you stop and think about it, it is the most logical.

I often find myself helping people who are doing everything they can to save a few dollars. I find myself telling them allot of times, "well, you can do that yourself".  There is so much in this industry you can do yourself. But there is also allot you really should not try to. The typical funeral home does not want you to do anything at all by yourself. They want to do it all, and charge you for all of it.  If you can do it yourself to save a few dollars, I will tell a family if asked.

Burial is one of those areas that has allot involved in it. I don't think in the beginning when the first person ever died and they had the first funeral ever that everyone expected it to be so complex. With complexity comes charges, we all know that.  There was a time when families tried to do services outside of the funeral home by going to the church for visitation. Then the church found it to be a great idea to not only charge for the facility, but also the priest use and the musician, the graveside service and the rosary if you have one. This on top of all that the funeral home charges. The excuse is, "we don't know why the funeral home charges, we do the services". at the same time because of all this the funeral home sees itself losing cash because no one is using their facilities so they charge a "Fee" to take the deceased to the church and have their guys stand around till the church is done. Never mind the fact that this charge is the same amount as the use of the chapel. You cant get around it.

Other things to include, Visitation, church service, Graveside service (that's an interesting one, you get charged as much as a church service so the funeral director can hold a bucket of dirt while everyone files by to toss it on the grave, then thanks you for being there on behalf of the family and bla bla bla...) Don't get me wrong, this is all tastefully done and with great elegance, but do you really want to pay $350 so a guy can hold a bucket while everyone scoops dirt out of it?


And the hearse, lets not forget about the last ride. The hearse is traditionally the traditional way to go, BUT! did you know you can use your own vehicle? You can, no law says you have to use a hearse.

Body preparation is important, cost money to embalm and dress and casket. BUT! Did you know you can dress the deceased if you want to? also do the hair and make up. But then again the funeral home may charge you to use their facility to do this, well, what to do, take the deceased home to dress them their? It's a catch 22. Oh, remember, Embalming is not required by law, nope! not at all.

Now administratively, to be honest, I spend more time sitting and connecting with a family, making the arrangements than I do "arranging" everything. 20 to 35 minutes maximum. That's it! nothing else really. The computer age puts everything, from personalization to obituaries at my fingertips. Death certificate filing, all via computer. No Doctor chasing, as some of my fellow funeral business owners would want you to believe.

Oh, and the casket, no matter what, you will pay for a burial casket if you choose burial. Even if you buy it elsewhere. Oh, and don't be fooled, just about ALL caskets are made up of parts manufactured in another country. That is the God honest truth, they may be assembled in America, but it is of parts manufactured in another country such as Mexico, China or Vietnam.


Grave purchase......... WOW! that can cost as much as the funeral service itself. $4,000 to $8,000 for the ground, opening and closing and a grave box. (Cement box the casket goes in)

So your looking at about all together, the minimum of about $7,000 to $10,000 total. Give or take a thousand.

Lets look at cremation now!

Remember that initial paragraph about burial because of the foul odor and reflection? Well guess what? some see that the cremation a body does the same thing, removes the odor and they are not so compelled to have to go somewhere to reflect. They consider burial as a waste of space and all the service part of it all can either be morbid and ghoulish. These individuals have a different outlook on the afterlife, the processing of grief and the whole death process. This does not make them wrong, nor does it make those that think cremation as being wrong..., wrong.

Cremation is pretty basic if its just direct cremation.
  • pick up the body
  • meet with the family
  • do the paperwork
  • cremate the body
  • return the ashes to the family
Basic cremation is very simple, it is not expensive nor does it have the cost of the cemetery. Some family members prefer to purchase an urn. They can do that. Some choose to take in a container provided.

Oh, one of the newest things by the funeral home is to give you the cremains in a cardboard box, this is to make you feel cheap and guilty. and make you want to buy an urn.

For the same amount of money, they can have the crematory put the ashes in a black plastic container. you know, Like we do at Avenidas, no extra charge.

Basic cremation is a very simple dignified end to ones existence. It is for those that wish to honor ones simple wish and choose not to go through all the fan fair of a very elaborate service. There is absolutely nothing at all wrong with a simple direct cremation. If this is what you choose or what you are doing to honor the wishes of a friend or loved one, do not allow yourself to be talked out of it by someone playing or tugging on your heartstrings wishing you would spend more money at their facility. Keep it basic........

Now, you can do some things that introduce certain parts of the "Burial" traditions into the cremation services requested, a visitation, a church service with the body present and so on. Remember this will increase the price of the services but in the end, you will be concluding with cremation so you are avoiding the price of the casket purchase and the burial plot. (the two biggest price items in a burial service)


Ok, so what about religion? I'm Catholic, what do they allow me to do? Well, that's a whole other topic, but guess what, you can cremate, read the BLOG I wrote to further understand the Catholic faiths guidelines on cremation and the human body.

Click here;  The Roman Catholic Church and Cremation

So there you go, pretty much give you a simple breakdown of cremation versus burial.

Oh, so what is the difference in cost from direct cremation to burial?

about $7,000, give or take a thousand.....

For more information on cremation, follow the blue link and read : "Lets Talk About Cremation.... AGAIN!"
I was asked about how much cremation is in the local area. Well, for the local consumer it can be as high as $2,300 at any corporate funeral provider (Dingity), or as low as $495 at our facility here in Avondale. The range varies within those prices.

Shop around.


Saturday, June 18, 2011


So what do you do if you find yourself sitting with a family and presenting to them everything that they ask for only to find out what they are requesting is above the family budget? (a good counselor will ALLWAYS remind you to stay within your budget at one point in you conference)

That's a real tough dilemma. It is for me anyways because I know that the family wants to do their best, but can usually see that the budget will not accommodate what they interpret as the best. Love is love, "DOING" something, anything and not abandoning the deceased to the county is a sign of love, please remember that.

The three Sides...

There are three sides to the funeral process:

1. SERVICES (non-Taxable):
  • Basic service of the funeral director and staff
  • Removal
  • embalming
  • refrigeration
  • dressing and casketing
  • visitation service (set up and supervision)
  • church service (set up and supervision)
  • graveside service
  • Hearse
2. MERCHANDISE (taxable):
  • Casket
  • Urn
  • Book
  • Folders
  • Prayer Cards
  • Casket Cross
  • Vault
  • Marker
  • Flowers
3. CASH ADVANCES (non-taxable):
  • Funeral Escorts
  • Church fees
  • Cemetery charges
  • Death certificates
  • Airline charges
  • Permits and fees
Now, of the three items listed above, the one most likely to be negotiated in price is "SERVICES".

"Cash advances" are non-negotiable. These are outside of the funeral home charges that are paid to third parties.

That Mountain Bike!

Of all the merchandise sold, do not let them hold out on that "CASKET" price. You will know if a casket price is high, its almost like a natural feeling, You will look at a vessel made out of plastic cloth and metal, it has maybe two moving parts and other than putting a body in it, it serves no purpose. IT DOES LESS THAN A HIGH END MOUNTAIN BIKE AND COSTS THOUSANDS MORE.  Ask yourself, "Is this really worth $4,500? Probably not. NEGOTIATE that casket price down, SAVE SOME MONEY! Also, if you negotiate down the price of the casket, the Taxes also go down... You should be able to purchase a nice casket for under $800.

Your Money, GET IT?
Understanding that things are negotiable, remember one thing, a funeral home has to make money, they just don't need to make "ALL THE MONEY". Bills need to be paid, chemicals need to be purchased as well as merchandise. The facilities must be maintained and the staff must earn a basic salary or income. Electricity, water, automobiles maintained, gas, business insurance and on and on and on. I think and hope you get the point.


Tips are far and few between so what the staff earns is what they earn. Few funeral homes with the exception of corporate offer bonuses and most staff is part time to keep costs down. Consider a tip to the staff, not the owner. they truly do appreciate it.


Exceptions can be made  family to family to assist. But then when that happens and the family that pays more finds out, they tend to get a bit upset because this consideration was not afforded to them. My philosophy is that if ones pricing was affordable in the first place, then they would not be put in the dilemma that they have to decide to help or afford a family the opportunity to walk.

I fail to understand why a business would let a family walk on a few hundred dollars. I mean its kind of ridicules. Why not accept the loss and serve the customer. Some facilities feel that if they do this it will make them appear cheap or "low cost" or even second class.

I remember once that I was helping a friend of mine purchase a truck. All the time we kept asking for the "invoice" we wanted to see it. The guy said no, no, no, no, no. When asked why he said. "If I sell you the vehicle at cost, then how and the hell am I going to make a living and who are you to gauge how much we need to make on each car to keep the doors open" GOOD POINT!

As you can see, there is nothing wrong with asking for a little help or negotiating a price if you are trying to make ends meet, BUT!

  • If you are doing it because you refuse to shop around
  • If you are doing it because you prefer the more majestic location and cant afford it
  • If you are doing it because you are embarrassed to go to a simpler or smaller place
  • If you are doing it because you are use to paying higher prices before the economy went to hell
  • If you are doing it because you are extremely budget oriented (a budget is fine, but not at others expense)
  • If you are doing it to impress your friends
  • If you are doing it out of guilt
Then my friends, you are negotiating for all the wrong reasons and the business owner is not obligated to assist you.

Skilled, and they know it, you don't.

Usually the staff is skilled enough to know why you are there and how sincere you are. They can read into your reasoning and your desire for help. They have been doing this for many years, They are very skilled at this negotiation process, you are not, you may feel you are in control, but you may not even remember this day due to the fog of losing your loved ones. They know what to look for, from the shoes you wear, the car you drive to the cigarettes you smoke, they have learned to determine what you can afford, and what you cant. This is a very "old School" technique.

Funeral homes may deduct a certain amount, maybe a token amount to assist you or even to keep you from shopping around, giving you a bit of incentive to stay with them out of loyalty because they did you a favor. This is a common practice. There is nothing wrong with it. But it is up to you as a consumer to shop around for a better price, BUT ONLY IF YOU CHOOSE TOO!


A small story, My friend Brandon lost his Mother, after she passed he was reasonably calm and seemed aware of all that was going on. Up to two weeks after she passed, to this day he had little memory of what happened and were he was or what he was doing. He did not even remember a movie he went to see. I have sat with MANY families that long after the fact do not recall the arrangement process that we did, even though they seemed fine and even in good spirits when we did the arrangements. So please do not think you will be in control of your senses and faculties. Most of the time you think you are, until time  passes and you realize you had no idea at all what you were doing, nor could you remember it.

Good luck and remember, all funeral homes can charge what they want to, some of us just charge less than others.

Miguel Legaspi