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  • At Cremation Society of America, a question that we’re often asked by clients is “Do I Need a Will?” We’d like to help you and your family consider some of the aspects of a Will and the end-of-life decisions that you may need to contemplate.

    The Need for a Will

    A Will makes for a more efficient and worry-free process for honoring your end-of-life wishes or those of a loved one. A Will also keeps your estate out of the probate system, which can lead to excessive taxes and arbitrary outcomes.

    A Will is YOU Making Decisions After You’re Gone

    As part of a Will, among other things, YOU determine:

    • Who Gets What?  You decide who will be the beneficiaries (the recipients) of your belongings, money, real estate, etc. A beneficiary can be anyone you designate – not just immediate family.  Money and inheritances can test the bonds of even the tightest family. A Will alleviates any danger of family battles over money, etc. Note: If you intend to name someone as a beneficiary in the Will, do NOT have that person serve as a witness of the Will. Witnesses are NOT legally permitted to be beneficiaries.
    • Who Makes Sure That the Will is Followed? You also decide who will serve as the Executor. The Executor, oftentimes an attorney, is responsible for “executing” you directions contained within the Will such as satisfying any debts, outstanding taxes and handing over to beneficiaries money, objects as you determine.
    • Who Will Care For Children or Dependents? In the case where you have dependent children and there is no spouse or ex-spouse to care for them, you can name a Guardian in your Will to assume your role as their parent. The same holds true in the case of a dependent – perhaps a parent or sibling who requires a caregiver. If you do not name a Guardian, the courts will wind up naming a Guardian. Don’t surrender your ability to name a Guardian. Use a Will.
    • Who Will Manage the Financial Needs of Children or Dependents? You can also name a Guardian of the Estate to carry out your wishes to ensure the financial well-being of your children or any dependents upon your death. This does NOT need to be the same person as the one named as the Guardian above. In fact, many Wills name a different person to manage the money. If the courts name a Guardian, that same Guardian will be appointed by the courts to manage the money for your children or dependents. if you do not want to leave that decision up to the courts, name the Guardian of the Estate in your Will.
    • You Add What YOU Want. Keep in mind that the Will can be as basic or elaborate as YOU deem appropriate to ensure that your wishes are met upon your death.
    • What Property Can I Include in my Will? You can – and should – direct the distribution/ownership of:
      • Property/Real Estate
      • Cash/Bank Accounts
      • Intangible Personal Property: Stocks, Bonds, Corporate Equity, etc.
      • Cars, Jewelry, Works of Art, Heirlooms, Clothing
      • Residuary Estate: These are items that don’t merit being itemized or listed separately. These items are turned over to a Residuary Beneficiary who will distribute the items where necessary. Make sure you leave instructions with the Residuary Beneficiary.
    • What Property Can I NOT Include in my Will? Here are examples of items that you cannot convey to beneficiaries:
      • Property that you own equally with another, such as a home owned with a spouse.
      • Trusts, Retirement Plans, Insurance Policies or any other vehicle that already stipulates beneficiaries.
      • Investments that have already designated recipients, such as stocks or bonds.
      • Your Online Accounts and Presence: This is a Big One! Most online media companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc will NOT grant your family access to YOUR online accounts. The best way to grant your family access is to save your access credentials to secure storage media and name a beneficiary in the Will. The beneficiary can then gain access to your accounts on your behalf. Your family will need these credentials to close the online accounts to prevent identity theft.

    How Do I Get Started?

    The number of online legal resources and services is truly amazing and you may be tempted to try to save money and time by utilizing an online service to draft a Will. We suggest that you engage an attorney who specializes in Wills to make sure that you cover all of your bases. Ask family or friends to recommend an Attorney and then meet with him/her in person. You will be entrusting to your Attorney literal “life and death” decisions. You should have a level of comfort with that Attorney before you sign any documents. Depending upon your financial holdings and the complexity of your estate, especially when there are trusts involved, you may also wish to engage an accountant and even a financial adviser.

    An Attorney and/or Accountant can determine the most tax-efficient ways to structure your estate. The lower the tax obligation, the more money will be distributed to your beneficiaries.

    Maintain Your Will

    Once you’ve created and signed your Will, here are a few things you should do to maintain it:

    • Periodically review the beneficiaries and change when appropriate. Sometimes, beneficiaries pass away before you do or otherwise fall out of favor. Keep these up-to-date. The same holds true for the items to be distributed. If you sell a property, remove it from the Will.
    • Store it where it can be found. Store your Will in a safe or other secure-yet-accessible location. You can store it in a safe deposit box but make sure that someone else has a key and can otherwise gain access to the box. You can also have your Attorney keep your Will – just be sure to let your family know to contact your Attorney to retrieve your Will.

    What Happens When I Die?

    Now that your Will is in place, here is the chronology of events when you pass away:

    Step 1:  The Executor presents the will to probate court.

    Step 2:  The probate court acknowledges your Will and approves it. This process could take from 60 days to up to three years, depending on your state’s laws and the complexity of your estate. Check with your Attorney to get more details of the timeline. The probate court must approve your Will before it can be executed in accordance with your directions.

    Step 3: The probate court approve your Will, which enables the Executor to distribute assets to Beneficiaries according to your wishes.

    What If I Die Without A Will?

    Without a Will, the probate court will likely hand over your assets to your closest surviving relatives. The same holds true for custody of children and/or dependents. Your estate will still have to go through the probate process, and “Intestacy laws”.

    As you can see, there are many advantages to a Will and it will give you peace of mind that your wishes will be honored after you’ve passed away. This is much the same way as how Pre-planning your Direct Cremation delivers peace of mind during a troubling time for your family and friends.

    Please contact CSA for more information regarding our Cremations services as well as family resources. We look forward to being of service to you and your family.

     

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  • A loved one has passed away and you are the parent, guardian or family friend of a child who is grieving the loss of the same loved one, be it a sibling, parent, grandparent, or other person close to the child. You are faced with the daunting task of not only coming to terms with your grief but also with helping the bereaved child come to terms with such a life-changing event.

    In cases where your loved one is to be cremated (which is happening more and more in today’s society), you should take steps to explain what cremation is to the child in your care. Here are some helpful steps when seeking to comfort a child and to help with the healing process:

    Understand Cremation

    Believe it or not, many adults have never been taught what happens during cremation. The process of Cremation includes:

    • Cremation takes place at a building called a crematory or crematorium.  Sometimes crematories are adjacent to funeral homes, but often they are stand-alone operations not affiliated with a specific funeral home. There are more than 1,000 crematories in the United States and Canada today
    • Within the Crematorium is a special stainless-steel vault called a cremation chamber, or retort.  The body is placed in a sturdy cardboard container and the container is moved into the cremation chamber. The body may also be cremated in a casket. After the container or casket is placed in the chamber, the chamber door is tightly sealed and the licensed operator turns on the heat
    • This process can take 2-4 hours, until such time as only calcium bone fragments remain
    • Upon completion of the cremation, the remains are collected in a metal tray.  At this point, the remains are small pieces of bone. To further reduce them, the remains are placed in a processor and refined down to the consistency of coarse sand
    • The white or grayish remains (called ashes, cremated remains or cremains) are then sealed in a transparent plastic bag along with an identification tag.  The bag weighs about 5 lbs. and is similar in size to a 5-lb. bag of sugar. Often the family requests that the cremated remains be placed in an urn, which can then be buried, placed in a columbarium (which is a special above-ground structure at a cemetery), taken home or transported for scattering.
     Encourage Questions from the Child

    Children are naturally curious about everything, including death but death is an uncomfortable subject for most adults because we all have suffered loss at some point in our lives. Such a discussion can unearth painful memories – and this is natural. However, you can be a resource for the child at a critical moment by being someone the child can turn to with death and cremation questions. Remember: Most young children assume that “grown-ups” have all of life’s answers. Encourage the child to ask you anything about the death and the funeral. Give the child honest answers – but in words and concepts that the child will understand.

    Use Simple Explanations

    Armed with your understanding of the cremation process, you need to plan which information to share with the child and how to share it. Take care to use words and concepts that the child can grasp and understand.  This depends not only on the age of the child but on the child’s personality, developmental level and vocabulary. If your words and your tone convey command of the information and familiarity with the cremation process, the child will likely feel the same way.

    Try to provide as much information as possible. Children have an amazing ability to cope with life-changing events. Don’t withhold facts in an attempt to spare a child what you consider to be disturbing details. Often, a child’s imagination can conjure up explanations much scarier than reality if the child is denied the facts. Be the compassionate adult who furthers the child’s understanding.

    Her are some child-friendly answers to questions often asked about cremation:

    • Cremation has been used for thousands of years.  The ancient Greeks and Romans built funeral pyres – stacks of wood with the loved one place atop. The wood was set afire and the body burned, too.  Funeral pyres are still used in some countries today as a tribute to the deceased
    • Cremation doesn’t hurt.  The person is dead, which means the body doesn’t work anymore.  The body’s heart doesn’t beat, the body doesn’t breathe, the brain has stopped working and it doesn’t feel anything anymore.
    • There is no smell and no smoke when a body is cremated.  The process is very, very hot—many times hotter than your oven at home or a campfire.  The heat burns away all the parts of the body except for some pieces of bone.
    • After cremation, what’s left of the body looks like kitty litter or beach sand, although it’s white in color because it’s bone.  It’s put in a clear plastic bag so you can see it if you want to.
    • When a body is buried in the ground in a grave, it breaks down after months and years and just a skeleton is left. Cremation is the same process except cremation makes this happen much faster.
    • The people involved in the cremation process handle the body with dignity and respect.

    Some final thoughts: Where possible, include the child in the cremation and services planning. Let the child feel part of the process of honoring your loved one. Much like many of us want to feel useful and needed during times of stress, so do children. Also, simply being available to the child in the days, weeks and months after the cremation will make for a path to healing. Whether sharing funny stories or expressing how much you both miss your loved one, simply being “someone to talk to” goes a long way to providing a healthy grieving process.

    Please contact CSA for more information regarding our Cremations services as well as family grieving resources. We look forward to being of service to you and your family.

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  • At Cremation Society of America, one question that we’re often asked by clients is “Can I witness the Direct Cremation of my loved one in person?” Many may envision themselves accompanying their loved one’s casket as it moves through the cremation process at the crematory.

    The truth is that you cannot be present during a Direct Cremation. Why not?

    Direct cremation, as we’ve explained here, is a simpler, more “direct” alternative to traditional cremation services. Once you’ve chosen a Direct Cremation provider and confirmed the arrangements, your provider will take care of the rest. Your provider will collect your loved one from their place of passing and transport him/her to the crematorium, where your loved one will be prepared to receive a solemn and dignified Cremation. Once the Cremation is completed, your loved one’s ashes will be returned to you.

    While some traditional funeral homes allow families to be present in the room during a loved one’s cremation, it is not possible to attend a Direct Cremation.

    The Direct Cremation process and procedures do not support or accommodate family and loved ones witnessing the actual Cremation. One of the many advantages of a Direct Cremation is that families have nearly limitless options to arrange for a memorial at the place and time of their choosing. This allows for family and friends to honor your loved one when they might otherwise not be able to secure travel arrangements in time to attend a traditional funeral service.

    Traditional funeral or memorial services arranged through funeral homes are at he mercy of the funeral home’s tight schedule and inflexible timetable. With Direct Cremation, you and your family can plan a memorial as soon after Cremation as you like—or be more deliberate and take your time to give distant relatives a chance to make travel arrangements in order to attend.

    Even though you and your family cannot attend the Cremation itself, there are almost infinite  ways to honor the memory of your loved one. Here are just a few examples:

    • Scatter Ashes on land (with permission from the appropriate local authorities), at Sea or from an airplane
    • Trenching on Your Property to place ashes inside a long, narrow hole dug int the ground in a favorite location
    • Inter your loved one’s ashes in a Columbarium or Mausoleum
    • Simply keep your loved one’s ashes in an urn or vessel in your home or office
    • Incorporate your loved one’s ashes into jewelry, art or even a tattoo

    Cremation Society of America (“CSA”) is your trusted provider of Cremation services. Since we at CSA focus solely on Cremation – and leave funerals, burials and ceremonies to others – we can offer cost-effective Cremation services without sacrificing the dignity or solemnity of your love one.

    We offer the most efficient online process in the industry as well as 24 x 7 Cremation Consultants who are ready to answer any and all questions during such a troubling time for your family.

    Please Contact CSA for more information regarding our Direct Cremation services and our industry-leading identification protocols to provide you with peace of mind. CSA can also help you Pre-Plan all of your Direct Cremation services to meet your needs. We look forward to being of service to you and your family.

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  • What is a Death Certificate?

    Here at Cremation Society of America, one of the questions most often asked of us is how to order a Death Certificate and why is it required for Direct Cremation.

    A Death Certificate is an official document that serves as certified proof that someone has passed away. This document will be necessary for families or loved ones to close accounts, access insurance benefits and take similar legal steps. Death Certificates are also used by governmental agencies to track demographic trends locally and nationwide.

    How many Death Certificates do I need?

    A family or loved one will need a certified copy of a Death Certificate to close any financial services account or claim any benefit such as insurance proceeds after a loved one passes away. Some companies will require an original to access benefits such as pensions, insurance proceeds or property transfer. Other companies or entities may only require a photocopy/image of the Death Certificate to serve as proof. A good rule of thumb is to expect an original Death Certificate will be require to settle legal issues and a copy may be sufficient to resolve other matters.

    The number of death certificates a family needs will depend on the number of assets, benefits and accounts that have been left to them. We recommend that you contact each of the companies/entities involved to confirm whether the company/entity will accept only an original death certificate or a copy of the death certificate.

    Death Certificate

    How do I order a Death Certificate?

    Once the death has been registered, Death Certificates can be ordered from several entities, including:

    • The funeral home or Cremation provider that you choose
    • The state or county in which the person passed away
    • An online service such as VitalChek, a Lexis Nexis Company

    There are two types of Death Certificates: Informational or Certified:

    • Informational copies can be ordered by anyone
    • To get a Certified copy, you must be closely related to the deceased

    How long can I expect to wait to receive a Death Certificate?

    There can be as many as four parties/entities/agencies involved in processing the first Death Certificate, which means that the time it takes to receive the Certificate may vary. You can expect a state agency to take 3 -6 weeks while a county agency may only take 2-4 weeks.

    The following steps are typically required in order to produce a Death Certificate:

    • The family or Next of Kin provides certain information about the deceased to confirm identity
    • The primary care physician or attending physician confirms the cause of death to the funeral home or Cremation provider
    • The funeral home/Cremation provider registers the death in the applicable county or jurisdiction
    • The Death Certificates are printed and sent by the county or jurisdiction

    The family and funeral home/Cremation provider typically provide their respective information within a day and don’t delay the process. If any delays are encountered, it’s usually with the physicians or the applicable county/jurisdiction.

    We at Cremation Society of America do everything in our power to make the Death Certificate process as efficient as possible so that you and your family can address the matters at hand.

    Call us today to request more information about our Direct Cremations or click here to order your Direct Cremation now using our industry-leading online ordering process.

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  • Now that the Fall is upon us, our attention soon turns to the upcoming Holidays and planning our travel to visit family and friends.

    What if a Loved One passes away while traveling to visit family? As we described in our Blog, “Direct Cremation”, sometimes called “Simple Cremation” or “Immediate Cremation” is when the cremation is performed soon after death, without a viewing, visitation or funeral service of any kind.

    What if you’ve arranged for your Direct Cremation and you’re planning a trip across the United States to visit family for Thanksgiving or another holiday? What happens if you or a loved one passes away unexpectedly in another state that is thousands of miles away from home? How do you ensure that your loved one is returned home in a dignified manner? How much will such arrangements cost?

    You’ll have to deal with the rules and regulations of the airlines when it comes to the transportation of your loved one’s remains – and the cost as well. You’ll also have to arrange for the remains to be transported to your pre-planned facility for cremation. And you’ll need to manage these issues during a time of sudden and likely overwhelming grief.

    A Travel Protection Plan can save time, stress, and cost for you or your next-of-kin should your death occur while traveling away from your legal residence. Most Travel Protection Plans will include many of the following services:

    • Prepare remains for transport, regardless of where the remains are located worldwide
    • Locate funeral home or direct disposition (cremation) facility
    • Arrange for transportation of remains from place of death to funeral home or direct disposition (cremation) facility
    • Purchase casket/air tray to meet transportation requirements, including international transportation
    • Arrange and pay for transport to city of legal residence
    • Secure and process all documentation required for remains transportation, including death certificate

    Most Travel Protection Plans are triggered when the death occurs a certain number of miles away from the person’s legal residence. Be sure to review your Travel Protection Plan carefully for specific terms and conditions.

    At a time of shock and grief, you or your loved ones would make just one phone call to activate the Plan. Once activated, the Plan agents immediately commence arrangements to provide you and your loved ones with peace of mind amidst the chaos of returning home from your journey.

    Please contact CSA for more information regarding Travel Protection Plans and how such a plan can factor into your Pre-Panning strategy. We look forward to being of service to you and your family.

     

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  • What if a Loved One Passes Away Outside the United States? As we described in our Blog, “Direct Cremation”, sometimes called “Simple Cremation” or “Immediate Cremation” is when the cremation is performed soon after death, without a viewing, visitation or funeral service of any kind. Let’s say that you’ve arranged for your Direct Cremation and you’re planning a trip to Europe. What happens if you or a loved one passes away unexpectedly in a foreign country? How do you ensure that your loved one is returned home in a dignified manner? How much will such arrangements cost?

    As you might imagine, each country has its own laws and regulations pertaining to the preparation of a person’s remains before the remains can leave the country – not to mention the processing fees. Then, you’ll have to deal with the rules and regulations of the airlines when it comes to the transportation of your loved one’s remains – and the cost as well. Finally, you’ll have to arrange for the remains to be transported to your pre-planned facility for cremation.

    A Travel Protection Plan can save time, stress, and cost for you or your next-of-kin should your death occur while traveling away from your legal residence. Most Travel Protection Plans will include many of the following services:

    • Prepare remains for transport, regardless of where the remains are located worldwide
    • Locate funeral home or direct disposition (cremation) facility
    • Arrange for transportation of remains from place of death to funeral home or direct disposition (cremation) facility
    • Purchase casket/air tray to meet transportation requirements, including international transportation
    • Arrange and pay for transport to city of legal residence
    • Secure and process all documentation required for remains transportation, including death certificate

    Most Travel Protection Plans are triggered when the death occurs a certain number of miles away from the person’s legal residence. Be sure to review your Travel Protection Plan carefully for specific terms and conditions.

    At a time of shock and grief, you or your loved ones would make just one phone call to activate the Plan. Once activated, the Plan agents immediately commence arrangements to provide you and your loved ones with peace of mind amidst the chaos of returning home from your journey.

    Please contact CSA for more information regarding Travel Protection Plans and how such a plan can factor into your Pre-Panning strategy. We look forward to being of service to you and your family.

     

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  • This is a sensitive and personal question that has become increasingly common over the past 25 years. When deciding between Cremation and Burial, there are certain factors that you will need to consider: Religious Beliefs, Cost, and Environmental Impact. As with any such arrangements, the question of Cremation or Burial should be is asked before death, as part of your pre-planning discussions. In cases where the deceased had not communicated or documented a preference prior to death, the surviving family must consider evaluate those as well as the stressful act of guessing the deceased’s wishes.

    1. Religious Beliefs.

    For many, the first factor is whether Cremation is a permitted or sanctioned by the faith practiced by the deceased. Views on Cremation vary by religion. Some religions prohibit the practice of Cremation, including Islam, certain Christian denominations and Eastern Orthodox Jews.

    Other religions, especially the Roman Catholic Church, have increasingly permitted the practice of Cremation. Most other religions do not prohibit Cremation and leave the choice between Cremation and burial to the family.

    If you have religious questions about cremation or are unsure as to the religious implications of Cremation, you should speak with religious leadership or designated advisors before planning a Cremation.

    1. Cost.

    When compared to Burial, Cremation is a much more affordable option. Cremation is a fraction of the cost of a traditional burial, which is why a growing number of families are choosing Cremation over Burial – and the trend is expected to continue.

    Burial costs can be expensive, and the cost will only increase as space becomes less available. The associated costs include:

    • Caskets: Costs range from $1,500 up to $20,000 – and beyond
    • Burial Plots: Factors include size, location, cemetery, and availability. Costs can range from $2,500 to more than $30,000
    • Burial Vault/Crypt: Costs range from around $1,000 to $10,000 depending on the materials
    • Other Costs: Labor to actually open/close the grave; Grave Marker/Headstone; Long-term maintenance of the gravesite and graveyard

    As you can see, the budgetary cost for a traditional Burial starts at $5,000 and can be substantially higher. Most families can spend upwards of $20,000 for a basic funeral and traditional Burial. Land use is a serious concern with traditional Burial.

    1. Environmental Impact

    An ever-growing number of families are considering Cremation because it’s more “environmentally friendly” than traditional Burial. If the deceased was embalmed during the Burial process, then those chemicals could make their way into the soil. By contrast, the ashes of the deceased are actually sterile and can be high in certain nutrients for the soil.

    Ultimately, the question of Cremation or Burial is requires thought and consideration of many factors. Please reach out to our Cremation Society Specialists for assistance with these trying questions.

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