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Important Funeral Planning Information and Online Resources

We have all heard the famous saying of Benjamin Franklin, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Taxes are talked about frequently and a popular topic in the financial press.  Funeral planning is something most of us do not want to think about which can leave your loved ones vulnerable at a very stressful and emotional time.

Here are a few things to know and some excellent links to resources which can help you in your funeral planning:

1. You must have a licensed and registered funeral director – regardless of what arrangements you are thinking about (burial or cremation, calling hours or not) New York State requires that a funeral director handle the arrangements for a deceased person. It is a good idea to know which funeral home you want to handle this and understand the scope and price of all services well ahead of time (check out individual websites).  This is accomplished through an arrangement conference which may be held at the funeral home, in your personal residence or by phone.

2. A general price list must be given to you or the person inquiring about the services – prices can vary greatly (everything costs money including tables for display) between funeral homes. After receiving their price list, you are under no obligation to use their services.  New York State law allows the customer to change funeral homes at any time.  It is a good idea to have an idea of the minimum services you are considering in order to limit the overall cost.

3. Death certificates are obtained by the funeral director – this document is required to settle the financial affairs of the deceased person and is filed by the funeral director with the registrar of Vital Records in the locality where the death occurred. There is a fixed price ($10-15) per certificate and it is always a good idea to obtain more than one.

4. Cremains do not have to be buried in New York State – they may be kept in your home or disposed in any way that complies with local regulations. Scattering ashes at sea or inland waterways may require a special permit issued by the Environmental Protection Agency.

5. An Obituary can be written by the person before they die or a family or friend after death. It is becoming common place for people to write their own obituaries or indicate to family/friends what they would like in it.  A funeral home can assist as well and there are a number of good resources available online.

6. Write your final wishes in a document or letter to help your family members. This could include your funeral home (name, address, phone), death certificate information (date of birth, SSN, name of father and mother, name of spouse and other family member, occupation), Cemetery details (if applicable), grave markers and a list of people (financial advisor, lawyer, clergy, banks, etc.) to notify at your death.  Other information such as specific songs or religious customs could be in this document as well.

Listed below are just a few of the many resources available to help with your funeral planning.  Much of this information is specific to New York State.  Check with your individual state resources for their regulations regarding funeral arrangements.



A Consumer’s Guide to Arranging a Funeral

Before Prepaying Your Funeral, Know Your Rights

Frequently Asked Questions about Cemeteries

How to Write an Obituary – Tips and Ideas

Burial of Human Remains At Sea

The author of this article, George S. Urist, MBA, CFP® is President and Owner of Urist Financial and Retirement Planning, Inc., located in East Syracuse, New York.   George Urist has been a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner and Registered Representative with LPL Financial for over 28 years.  George can be followed on twitter @gurist and can be reached at 315-445-2147 or  Company information can be found at