Funeral Options Funeral planning is less stressful and can cost less if planned ahead. Many people do not know they can plan a funeral or burial that is out of the ordinary or alternative to more familiar services or arrangements. For those reasons this information has been prepared for Consumers. This is not an endorsement of any one approach over the other but simply an offering of information that illustrates choice since we believe it is everyone’s choice to live as one chooses until one dies. Why not have choices with one’s funeral and burial planning as well?
You will also find extensive information for consumers on funeral planning on the Federal Trade Commission’s web site: “Shopping for Funeral Services.” READ THIS SITE, particularly the Funeral Rule paragraph. You will be much better prepared to talk to a funeral provider.
The Funeral Consumers Alliance has a number of very helpful pamphlets that may be viewed or downloaded from their website. Four of the 25 titles are:
- Ten Tips for Saving Funeral Dollars
- Prepaying Your Funeral: Benefits and Dangers
- Common Funeral Myths
- Four-Step Funeral Planning: Where to Start When You Don’t Know How to Start
This document is not intended to serve as legal counsel or as an interpretation of Maine state laws. It has been crafted as a guide towards helping consumers gain appropriate information in planning a funeral, memorial service, burial, cremation or other disposition of a body. If you need legal advice, please consult a qualified attorney.
If you don’t have a will, make one. Simple wills can be executed using the Maine Statutory Will Form ( purchase for $1.00 from any county courthouse, or pay about $5 to download a copy from any of several legal forms companies you’ll find on the Internet). There are will-writing programs online, but Consumer Reports thinks that there are problems with them all. Even if you must contact a lawyer, your survivors will be grateful and the estate will probably save the cost of the lawyer’s services in problems that won’t have to be dealt with after the death. Maine Legal Services for the Elderly will give free legal advice to anyone 60 or older (mainelse.org/content/wills-and-probate) or 800.750.5353
Options for an In-Ground Burial:
1. Local Funeral Director (in the Yellow Pages under “Funeral Directors”).
Many families have a local funeral home they are comfortable with but it is becoming more common these days for consumers to “shop around” – prices can vary widely. According to the National Funeral Director’s Association, the average funeral in 2009 cost $7,755 (plus $3500+ cemetery costs). You can spend less by carefully choosing services and options. The average immediate burial (no embalming, visitation or service) costs about $2,000 excluding any cemetery costs. Any funeral director would be pleased to provide you with a copy of their General Price List. The Funeral Consumers Alliance of Maine has conducted a price survey of funeral homes in Maine, which you may see on their website.
2. Home Funeral:
In the State of Maine the “authorized person” responsible for disposition of the body is the next of kin or the person given signed authority by said next of kin. (Read the brochure “Making Arrangements by Authorized Persons“) The authorized person has the authority to dispose of the body according to their wishes, but must have the appropriate permits and follow Maine State laws. This said, the authorized person may keep the body at home, build the coffin, transport the body to the cemetery, hold their own memorial service, and do all the paperwork themselves. The other pages on this website guide you through the process. Burials are usually more expensive than cremations because of the cemetery fees for plot, opening/closing and vault or liner. Cemetery costs would be the only major expense ($3550+)
People can also be buried on their own property in Maine if you have designated a portion of your property as a “family burying ground.” Check with the local municipal officials, then follow the simple rules in Maine State Law. No cemetery expenses, so your costs could be $0.
Green Cemeteries or Natural Burials:
Maine now has two “green” cemeteries, which provide space to bury a body in a natural setting. The body may not be embalmed, and the container must be biodegradable. See Cedar Brook Burial Ground, Limington, Maine (email@example.com, 637-2085) or Rainbow’s End, South Orrington, Maine (Joan Howard, 825-3843, JoanHoward@att.net). The Burr Cemetery in Freeport (865-3940) has set aside a portion of their grounds for natural burials. What is a natural burial? See http://naturalburial.coop/. Less expensive than conventional cemeteries because vaults or grave liners are not allowed, so you save over $1000.
Burial at Sea: Contact Diver Ed in Bar Harbor at http://divered.com/contact-us/ or New England Burials at Sea (http://www.newenglandburialsatsea.com).
Options for Cremation:
Pacemakers must be removed before cremation (they may explode). Contact a medical professional or qualified funeral director.
1. Local Funeral Director:
Look in the Yellow Pages under “Cremation Services” or “Funeral Directors.” Ask about a “direct cremation” for a less expensive alternative, and ask if their direct cremation price includes the crematory fee. Expect to pay $2000 to $4000.
2. Call a direct cremation service:
A direct cremation service is a business run by a licensed funeral director that provides no-frills cremations. There are at least fourteen in Maine that charged less than $1250 (in 2011). Download the list here. The Funeral Consumers Alliance of Maine conducts a price survey every several years which you can view at www.FCAMaine.org.
Direct Cremation Services in Belfast (866-338-9199) has installed the equipment to perform “alkaline hydrolysis,” a more environmentally-friendly alternative to cremation. Call them for more information.
3. Home Funeral:
In the State of Maine the “authorized person” responsible for disposition of the body is the next of kin or the person given signed authority by said next of kin. (Read the brochure “Making Arrangements by Authorized Persons“) The authorized person has the authority to dispose of the body according to their wishes, but must have the appropriate permits and follow Maine State laws. This said, the authorized person may keep the body at home, build the coffin, transport the body to the crematory, collect the ashes, hold their own memorial service, and do the paperwork themselves. The other pages on this website guide you through the process. A Home Funeral can be done for around $500.
Scattering Ashes: No section of Maine State Law regulates scattering ashes. Be respectful, be discreet, get permission if you want to scatter ashes on someone else’s property. Find a copy of the book “So You’re Cremated, Now What?” by Jesse Klafel (the subtitle is “Over One Hundred Creative Ways to Scatter Your Ashes.”) If you want help in scattering ashes at sea, contact Diver Ed in Bar Harbor at http://divered.com/contact-us/, or Sheworthy Charters, South Portland and Saco (http://www.sheworthycharters.com/scattering_ashes.php)
Whole Body Donation:
Any resident of Maine may donate their body to the medical school at the University of New England in Biddeford. The University will pay for the transportation, embalming and cremation of the body. Instructions and contact information:
Body Donation Companies
There are now companies that will pick up a body at no cost to you and use it or parts of it for research, testing, etc. They cremate the body then return the ashes to the family when they have finished with it. See the list of Non -Academic Whole Body Donation Programs at http://finalrights.org/?page_id=198
Here’s a link to an NPR program “The Anatomy of Human Tissue Profits.” and their four-part series on body donation:
Calculating the Value of Human Tissue
Little Regulation Poses Problems Tracking Tissue
Am I a Tissue Donor, Too?
The Seamy Side of the Human Tissue Business