Frequent Questions


Click on the questions below to reveal each respective answer.

Funerals fill an important role for those mourning the loss of a loved one. By providing surviving family and friends with an atmosphere of care and support in which to share thoughts and feelings about death, funerals are the first step in the healing process. It is the traditional way to recognize the finality of death. Funerals are recognized rituals for the living to show their respect for the dead and to help survivors begin the grieving process.

You can have a full funeral service even for those choosing cremation. Planning a personalized ceremony or service will help begin the healing process. Overcoming the pain is never easy, but a meaningful funeral or tribute will help.

  • Pick up the deceased and transport the body to the funeral home (anytime day or night)
  • Notify proper authorities, family and/or relatives
  • Arrange and prepare death certificates
  • Provide certified copies of death certificates for insurance and benefit processing
  • Work with the insurance agent, Social Security or Veterans Administration to ensure that necessary paperwork is filed for receipt of benefits
  • Prepare and submit obituary to the newspapers of your choice
  • Bathe and embalm the deceased body, if necessary
  • Prepare the body for viewing including dressing and cosmetizing
  • Assist the family with funeral arrangements and purchase of casket, urn, burial vault and cemetery plot
  • Schedule the opening and closing of the grave with cemetery personnel, if a burial is to be performed
  • Coordinate with clergy if a funeral or memorial service is to be held
  • Arrange a police escort and transportation to the funeral and/or cemetery for the family
  • Order funeral sprays and other flower arrangements as the family wishes
  • Provide Aftercare, or grief assistance, to the bereaved

The funeral home will help coordinate arrangements with the cemetery.

  • Bring the following information to complete the State vital statistic requirements:
    • Birth Date
    • Birthplace
    • Father's Name
    • Mother's Name
    • Social Security Number
    • Veteran's Discharge or Claim Number
    • Education
    • Marital Status
  • Contact your clergy. Decide on time and place of funeral or memorial service. This can be done at the funeral home.
  • The funeral home will assist you in determining the number of copies of the death certificates you will be needing and can order them for you.
  • Make a list of immediate family, close friends and employer or business colleagues. Notify each by phone.
  • Decide on appropriate memorial to which gifts may be made (church, hospice, library, charity or school).
  • Gather obituary information you want to include such as age, place of birth, cause of death, occupation, college degrees, memberships held, military service , outstanding work, list of survivors in immediate family. Include time and place of services. The funeral home will normally write article and submit to newspapers (newspaper will accept picture and they will be returned intact).
  • Arrange for members of family or close friends to take turns answering door or phone, keeping careful record of calls. If Social Security checks are automatic deposit, notify the bank of the death.

If you request immediate assistance, yes. If the family wishes to spend a short time with the deceased to say good-bye, that’s perfectly acceptable. Your funeral director will come when your time is right.

Burial in a casket is the most common method of disposing of remains in the United States, although entombment also occurs. Cremation is increasingly selected because it can be less expensive and allows for the memorial service to be held at a more convenient time in the future when relatives and friends can come together.

A funeral service followed by cremation need not be any different from a funeral service followed by a burial. Usually, cremated remains are placed in urn before being committed to a final resting place. The urn may be buried, placed in an indoor or outdoor mausoleum or columbarium, or interred in a special urn garden that many cemeteries provide for cremated remains. The remains may also be scattered, according to state law.

Viewing is a part of many cultural and ethnic traditions. Many grief specialists believe that viewing aids the grief process by helping the bereaved recognize the reality of death. Viewing is encouraged for children, as long as the process is explained and the activity is voluntary.

Embalming sanitizes and preserves the body. Embalming makes it possible to lengthen the time between death and the final disposition, allowing family members time to arrange and participate in the type of service most comforting to them.

The Federal Trade Commission says, "Except in certain special cases, embalming is not required by law. Embalming may be necessary, however, if you select certain funeral arrangements, such as a funeral with viewing. If you do not want embalming, you usually have the right to choose an arrangement that does not require you to pay for it, such as direct cremation or immediate burial."

Pennsylvania Rules and Regulations Number 13.211 (A) requires that any human remains held 24 hours beyond death, shall be embalmed or placed in a hermetically sealed container that will not allow fumes or odors to escape or shall be kept under refrigeration;  provided, however, that this does not conflict with any religious beliefs or medical examination.


When compared to other major life events like births and weddings, funerals are not expensive. A wedding costs at least three times as much; but because it is a happy event, wedding costs are rarely criticized. A funeral home is a 24-hour, labor-intensive business, with extensive facilities (viewing rooms, chapels, limousines, hearses, etc.), these expenses must be factored into the cost of a funeral.

Additionally, the cost of a funeral includes not only merchandise, like caskets, but the services of a funeral director in making arrangements; filing appropriate forms; dealing with doctors, ministers, florists, newspapers and others; and seeing to all the necessary details. Funeral directors look upon their profession as a service, but it is also a business. Like any business, funeral homes must make a profit to exist.

It really depends entirely on how you wish to commemorate a life. One of the advantages of cremation is that it provides you with increased flexibility when you make your funeral and cemetery arrangements. You might, for example, choose to have a funeral service before the cremation; a memorial service at the time of cremation or after the cremation with the urn present; or a committal service at the final disposition of cremated remains. Funeral or memorial services can be held in a place of worship, a funeral home or in a crematory chapel.

With cremation, your options are numerous. The cremains can be interred in a cemetery plot, i.e., earth burial, retained by a family member, usually in an urn, scattered on private property, or at a place that was significant to the deceased. (It would always be advisable to check for local regulations regarding scattering in a public place-your funeral director can help you with this.)

Today, there are many different types of memorial options from which to choose. Memorialization is a time-honored tradition that has been practiced for centuries. A memorial serves as a tribute to a life lived and provides a focal point for remembrance, as well as a record for future generations. The type of memorial you choose is a personal decision.

As cremation becomes more popular, there is a rising need for people to consider transporting cremated remains.  This can be the case either when someone has died in a different state or country, a cremation has been performed at the place of death, but the ashes need to be returned to the family.  Or in some cases people are opting to distribute the cremated remains between surviving family who may be located across the U.S.

Whatever the circumstances, when a family wish to transport cremated remains,  the questions can often arise as to how best and inexpensively can this be done.  We have outlined below the key information you need to know if you wish to ship cremated remains.

If you are shipping cremated remains through a service you will need to ensure that the correct documentation accompanies the shipment.  A copy of the death certificate and cremation certificate will be required, along with other authorization forms.

Shipping Cremated Remains by U.S. Postal Service

You can send cremated remains by the U.S. Postal service.  You should use register mail with a return receipt, ship by express mail, and ensure you mark the outside of the package as containing ‘cremated remains’.

The extract from the USPS Bulletin 52, governing shipment of cremated remains, states:

“452.2 Cremated Remains

Human ashes are permitted to be mailed provided they are packaged as required in 463b. The identity of the contents should be marked on the address side. Mailpieces must be sent registered mail with return receipt service.

453 Packaging and Marking

The following conditions apply:

….b. Powders. Dry materials that could cause damage, discomfort, destruction, or soiling upon escape (i.e., leakage) must be packed in siftproof containers or other containers that are sealed in durable siftproof outer containers.”

Shipping Cremated Remains with a Courier Service.

Unfortunately, DHL, FedEx and UPS do NOT transport cremated remains at all, so you cannot courier cremated remains to another destination in the U.S. or overseas.

Transporting Cremated Remains by Air

You also have the option to transport ashes by an airline carrier.  Most airlines offer a freight or cargo service, so this is one option to consider.  You do need to check with the specific airline as regulations that govern the shipping of human remains differs between airlines.  Some airlines require 7 days notice, and of course, you will require certain documentation.  The shipment will need to be marked as “cremated remains”.

Many airlines do allow you to take cremated remains as carry-on luggage.  Again you need to carefully check the guidance with the airline you are traveling with.  The TSA guidelines specify that “passengers transport remains in temporary or permanent ‘security friendly’ containers constructed of light-weight materials such as plastic or wood. Temporary containers can also offer a security friendly means to travel by air with a crematory container.”  If a cremated remains container cannot pass through an x-ray machine with the contents visible, it will not pass the TSA security check.  The official TSA statement is:

“To maintain the highest level of security, TSA determined that documentation from a funeral home about the contents of a crematory container was no longer sufficient to allow the container through a security checkpoint and onto a plane. Since February of this year, all crematory containers must pass through an X-ray machine. If a container is made of a material that prevents screeners from clearly seeing what is inside, the container will not be allowed through the checkpoint. Out of respect for the deceased, screeners will not open a container, even if requested by the passenger.”

Shipping Cremated Remains Internationally

If you need to ship cremated remains internationally, you do just need to check with the embassy in the destination country.  Some countries have specific guidelines about receiving cremated remains and additional import documentation may need to be completed.  Also, some countries have different rules about receiving cremated remains, and a funeral director may be required to take receipt of the ashes before handing them over to a family member.

You should ensure that sufficient time is allowed for legal processes and documentation.  You probably need 2 weeks notice to arrange an international transportation of cremated remains.  A list of U.S. embassies around the world is available here.

Hopefully, this information has answered any questions you had about how to transport your loved ones ashes.  If you have any further questions, feel free to ask us the question.

Ship cremated remains from the United States to anywhere in: the UK, Europe, Mexico, Central America, South America, Middle East and Indian sub-continent.

You might choose ground burial of the urn. If so, you may usually choose either a bronze memorial or monument. Cremation niches in columbariums are also available at many cemeteries. They offer the beauty of a mausoleum setting with the benefits of above ground placement of remains. Many cemeteries also offer scattering gardens. This area of a cemetery offers the peacefulness of a serene garden where family and friends can come and reflect.

If you wish to have your ashes scattered somewhere, it is important to discuss your wishes to be scattered ahead of time with the person or persons who will actually have to do the cremation ashes scattering ceremony, as they might want to let your funeral professional assist in the scattering ceremony. Funeral directors can also be very helpful in creating a meaningful and personal ash scattering ceremony that they will customize to fit your families specific desires. The services can be as formal or informal as you like. Scattering services can also be public or private. Again, it is advisable to check for local regulations regarding scattering in a public place-your funeral director can help you with this.

Yes — Depending upon the cemetery's policy, you may be able to save a grave space by having the cremains buried on top of the casketed remains of your spouse, or utilize the space provided next to him/her. Many cemeteries allow for multiple cremated remains to be interred in a single grave space.

Uncertainty about income tax issues can add to the stress experienced from the death of a spouse. You should meet with your family attorney and/or tax advisor as soon as possible to review your particular tax and estate circumstances. Bring a detailed list of your questions to the meeting. If you do not have an attorney or tax advisor, call the IRS toll-free at 800-829-1040 for answers to specific tax questions.

There are a number of options available, including:

  • Determine if the deceased person qualifies for any entitlements. Check with the Social Security Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and with your State Fund. Many people are entitled to get financial assistance with their funeral costs from these agencies if they qualify.
  • Review all insurance policies the deceased person has, including life insurance. Some life insurance policies have coverage clauses for funeral related costs.
  • Find local charities providing financial help for funeral expenses. Search for non profit organizations and for churches in your area.
  • Talk to your funeral director about cremation options - these can be much less expensive depending on your choices.


In this section

Local Resources

Frequent Questions

Grief Support

Social Security Benefits

Talk of a Lifetime

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