In this section, we have gathered information that will answer our most commonly asked questions. You will find answers for general questions in the FAQ, and more specifics about Social Security, veterans benefits, what to do when a death occurs and special things to consider when a death occurs away from home. As always, please feel free to contact us directly for more detailed answers to your questions.
What purpose does a funeral serve?
It is the customary way to recognize death and its finality. Funerals are recognized rituals for the living to show respect for the dead and to help survivors begin the grief process.
What do funeral directors do?
Our directors are caregivers and administrators. They make the arrangements for transportation of the body, complete all necessary paperwork, and implement the choices made by the family regarding the funeral and final disposition of the body. Our directors are listeners, advisors and supporters. They have experience assisting the bereaved in coping with the death. Funeral Directors are trained to answer questions about grief, recognize when a person is having difficulty coping, and recommend sources of professional help. Funeral directors also link survivors support groups at our funeral home or in the community.
Do you have to have a funeral director to bury the dead?
In most states, family members may bury their own dead although regulations vary. However, most people find it very trying to be solely responsible for arranging the details and legal matters surrounding a death.
Why have a public viewing?
Viewing is part of many cultural and ethnic traditions. Many grief specialist 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 voluntary.
Is it possible to have a traditional funeral if someone dies of AIDS?
Yes, a person who dies of AIDS-related illness is entitled to the same service options afforded to anyone else. If public viewing is consistent with local or personal customs, that option is encouraged. Because the grief experienced by survivors may include a variety of feelings, survivors may need more support than survivors of non-AIDS- related deaths.
What is the purpose of embalming?
Embalming sanitizes and temporarily preserves the body, retards the decompostion process, and enhances the appearance of the body disfigured by traumatic death or illness. Embalming makes it possible to lengthen the time between death and the final dispositon, thus allowing family memebers time to arrange and participate in the type of service most comforting to them.
Does a dead body have to be embalmed, according to law?
No, however, some states required embalming when certain types of services are selected.
Is cremation a substitute for a funeral?
No, cremation is an alternative to earth burial or entombment for the body's final disposition and often follows a traditional funeral service.
Is cremation, as a means of disposition, increasing?
According to the Cremation Association of North America (CANA), cremation was the disposition of choice in about 27% of all deaths in the United States in the year 2001. It is projected that the percentage will rise to about 47% in 2025. These figures represent the United States as a whole; individual states may have lower or higher rates or cremation. (Source: Crematioin Association of North America)
So, I've decided on cremation. Can I still have a funeral or a viewing?
Yes, of course you can. Your Funeral Home can assist you with the necessary information for a viewing and funeral with a cremation following or a memorial service.
Funeral Cost Questons
What recourse does a consumer have for poor service or overcharging?
Funeral service is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission and state licensing boards. In most cases, the consumer should discuss problems with the funeral director first. If the dispute cannot be solved by talking with the funeral director, the consumer may wish to contact the Funeral Service Counselor Assistance Program. FSCAP provides information, mediates disputes, provides arbitration, and maintains a consumer guarantee fund for reimbursement of services rendered. To contact FSCAP, call 708-827-6337 or 800-662-7666). Cemetery Oversite Commission (410)230-6229, Maryland State Board of Morticians (410) 764-4792.
Don't funeral directors mark caskets up tremendously, at least 400%?
Some funeral homes may mark caskets up tremendously, but we here at the Ambrose Funeral Homes do not. We invite you to compare our prices with any others.
Who pays for funerals for the indigent?
Other than the family, there are veteran, union, and other organizational benefits to pay for funerals, including, in certain instances, a lump sum death payment from Social Security. In most states, some form of public aid allowances are available from either the state, county, or city or a combination. Most funeral directors are aware of the various benefits and know how to obtain them for the indigent.
What to do if a Death Occurs
What should I do if the death occurs in the middle of the night or on the weekend?
Our Funeral Directors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Click here for more information.
Will someone come right away?
Yes, we will respond as soon as possible if requested. If the family wishes to spend a short time with the deceased to say good bye, it's acceptable. We will come when your time is right.
If a loved one dies out of state, can our local Funeral Home still help?
Yes, we can assist you with out-of-state arrangements, either to transfer the remains to another state or to Maryland.
Where can I find more information about what to do when a death occurs, as well as veterans and social security benefits?
We have provided all that information for you.
The following checklist is designed to help you file your Social Security benefits correctly so that prompt payments may be made.
The deceased worker must have credit for work covered by Social Security, ranging from 1 1/2 to 10 years depending on his or her age at death.
Who May Receive Monthly Benefits
- A widow or widower age 60 or older (50 if disabled), or at any age if caring for an entitled child who is under 16 or disabled.
- A divorced widow or widower age 60 or older (50 if disabled) if the marriage lasted 10 years, or if caring for an entitled child who is under 16 or disabled.
- Unmarried children up to 18 (19 if they are attending a primary or secondary school full time).
- Children who were disabled before reaching 22, as long as they remained disabled.
- Dependent parent or parents 62 or older.
Lump-Sum Death Payment
A one-time payment of $255 is paid in addition to the monthly cash benefits described above. The lump-sum death payment is paid in the following priority order:
A surviving spouse who lived in the same household as the deceased person at the time of death.
A surviving spouse eligible for or entitled to benefits for the month of death.
A child or children eligible for or entitled to benefits for the month of deah.
Applying For Benefits
You must apply in order to receive benefits. You may apply at any Social Security office or, if you wish, you may apply by telephone. Just dial the toll-free number 1-800-772-1213 and the operator will schedule an appointment for you or arrange for the local Social Security office to take your claim by telephone.
Reimbursement of Burial Expenses
VA will pay a burial allowance up to $2,000 if the veteran's death is service connected. VA also will pay the cost of transporting the remains of a service-disabled veteran to the national cemetery nearest the home of a deceased that has available gravesites. In such cases, the person who bore the veteran's burial expenses may claim reimbursement from VA. VA will pay a $300 burial and funeral expense allowance for veterans who, at time of death, were entitled to receive pension or compensation or would have been entitled to compensation but for receipt of military retirement pay. Eligibility also is established when death occurs in a VA facility or a nursing home with which VA contracted. Additional costs of transporation of the remains may be reimbursed. There is no time limit for filing reimbursement claims of service-connected deaths. In other deaths, claims must be filed within two years after permanent burial or cremation.
VA will pay a $300 plot allowance when the veteran is not buried in a cemetery that is under U.S.Government jurisdiction if the veteran is discharged from active duty because of disability incurred or aggravated in line of duty, if the veteran was in receipt of compensation or pension or would have been in receipt of compensation but for receipt of military retired pay, or if the veteran died while hospitalized by VA. The plot allowance is not payable solely on wartime service.
If the veteran is buried without charge for the cost of a plot or internment in state-owned cemetery reserved solely for veteran burials, the $300 plot allowance may be paid to the state. Burial expenses paid by the deceased's employer or a state agency will not be reimbursed.
VA provides an American flag to drape the casket of any honorably discharged veteran and to a person entitled to retired military pay. After the funeral service, the flag may be given to the next of kin or a close associate. VA also will issue a flag on behalf of a service member who was missing in action and later presumed dead. Flags are issued at VA regional offices, VA hospitals, national cemeteries, and post offices.
Burial in National Cemeteries VA Cemeteries
Burial benefits in a VA national cemetery include the gravesite, opening and closing of the grave, and perpetual care. Many national cemeteries have columbaria for the inurnment of cremated remains or special gravesites for the burial of cremated remains. Headstone and markers and their placement are provided at the government's expense.
Veterans and armed forces members who die on active duty are eligible for burial in one of VA's 114 national cemeteries. An eligible veteran must have been discharged or separated from active duty under honorable or general conditions and have completed the required period of service. Personnel entitled to retired pay as a result of 20 years creditable service with a reserve component are eligible. A U.S. citizen who served in the armed forces of a government allied with the United States in a war also may be eligible.
Spouses and minor children of eligible veterans and of armed forces members also may be buried in a national cemetery. A surviving spouse of an eligible veteran who married a nonveteran, and whose remarriage was terminated by death or divorce, is not eligible for burial in a national cemetery or a Maryland Veterans Cemetery.
Gravesites in national cemeteries cannot be reserved. Funeral directors or others making burial arrangements must apply at the time of death. Reservations made under previous programs are honored. The National Cemetery System normally does not conduct burials on weekends. A weekend caller, however, will be directed to one of three strategically located VA cemetery offices that remain open during weekends to schedule burials at the cemetery of the caller's choice during the following week.
Headstones and Markers
VA provides headstones and markers for the unmarked graves of veterans anywhere in the world and for eligible dependents of veterans buried in national, state verteran or military cemeteries.
Flat bronze, flat granite, flat marble, upright granite and upright marble types are available to mark the grave in a style consistent with the place of burial. Niche markers also are available to mark columbaria used for inurnment of cremated remains.
Headstones and markers are inscribed with the name of the deceased, the years of birth and death and branch of service. Optional items that also may be inscribed at VA expense are: military grade, rank or rate; war service such as World War II; months and days of birth and death; an emblem reflecting one's beliefs; valor awards; and the Purple Heart. Additional items may be inscribed at private expense.
When burial is in a national, state veteran or military cemetery, the headstone marker is ordered through the cemetery. Inscription, shipping and placement can be obtained from the cemetery.
When burial occurs in a cemetery other than a national, military post or state veterans cemetery, the headstone marker must be applied for from the VA. It is shipped at government expense. VA however, does not pay the cost of placing the headstone or marker on the grave. To apply, you must complete VA form 40-1330 and forward it to the Director, Office of Memorial Programs (403A), National Cemetery System, Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington, DC 20420. Forms and assistance are available at Va application you may call the Director, Office of Memorial Programs at 1-800-697-6947.
VA cannot issue a headstone or marker for a spouse or child buried in a private cemetery. Twenty year reservists without active duty service are eligible for a headstone or marker, if they are entitled to military retired pay at the time of death.
Headstones or Markers for Memorial Plots
To memorialize an eligible veteran whose remains are not available for burial, VA will provide a plot and headstone or maker in a national cemetery. The headstone or marker is the same, as that used to identify a grave except that the mandatory phrase "In Memory of" precedes the authorized inscription. The headstone or marker is available to memorialize eligible veterans or deceased active-duty members whose remains were not recovered or identified, were buried at sea, donated to science, or cremated and scattered. The memorial marker may be provided for placement in a cemetery other than a national cemetery. In such a case, VA supplies the marker and pays the cost of shipping, but does not pay for the plot or the placement of marker. Only a relative recongnized as the next of kin may apply for the benefit.
Presidential Memorial Certificates
The Presidential Memorial Certificate is a parchment certificate with a calligraphic inscription expressing the nation's recognition of the veteran's service. The veteran's name is inscribed and the certificate bears the signature of the President. Certificates are issued in the name of the honorably discharged, deceased veterans'. Eligible recipients include next of kin, other relatives and friends. The award of a certificate to one eligible recipient does not preclude certificates to other eligible recipients. The veteran may have died at any time in the past. The local VA regional office generally originates the application for a Presidential Memorial Certificate. The next of kin also may request a certificate. Requests should be accompanied by a copy of a document such as a discharge to establish honorable service. VA regional offices can assist in applying for certificates.
Headstone and Gravemarker Program
Headstone and Gravemarker Program
1-800-697-6947 8:00am to 4:30pm Eastern Time
Government Life Insurance Information
VA Insurance Center
1-800-669-8477 8:00am to 6:30pm Eastern time
When funeral arrangements must unexpectedly be made away from home, and family hearts are filled with mixed emotions, it is difficult to consider costs. If you want to limit costs, the best practice is to contact the funeral home in the area where the funeral service and burial is to take place.
WHAT TO DO FIRST
CALL AMBROSE FUNERAL HOME AT 410-242-2211, DAY OR NIGHT
We handle the situation from then on and make all the arrangements for conveying of the deceased to the local funeral home for embalming and preparation for return to their home state. You only need to contact us, give us some basic information and call us when you return to set a time for an arrangement conference. Unless you already have a funeral home selected in the area where the death occured, we strongly recommend that you allow our Funeral Director to make any contacts that are necessary.
The standard receiving policy in most other funeral homes is to give a credit for the embalming against their standard prices. You may pay all other charges such as transfer casket, transfer container, out-of-town funeral home facilties, professional and staff services, transfer documents and transportation charges. These costs can easily mount up to $1200 dollars or more, depending on the cost of transportation and charges of the out-of-town funeral home. Transportation costs differ and fees are not uniform from funeral home to funeral home, so we cannot say exactly how much this might be.
If a family member dies while traveling outside the United States, the U.S. Embassy will come to your assistance. You should call us immediately when a death occurs abroad. We are well-versed in the procedures for returning the deceased to the United States.
If a death occurs outside of the forty-eight contiguous states or your family has already engaged another funeral home, Ambrose Funeral Home will apply liberal credits to services provided by others when selecting one of our complete full-service funerals. Our membership in the National Funeral Directors Association as well as memberships in other national organizations prove us with funeral service contacts world wide.