Frequently Asked Questions
We've compiled a list of questions that are commonly asked regarding our business, preplanning, and funeral service in general. If you have a question you can't find the answer to on our site, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to assist.
Click on any question in the list to jump directly to it, or scroll through the whole list farther down the page to see answers to all.
1. "How much does a funeral cost?"
The simple answer is, it varies. There are several types of funerals, and numerous elements of those funerals that together make up the final cost. Generally speaking, there are two broad categories of funerals: immediate disposition services such as direct cremation or direct burial, where any services are held after the burial/cremation as memorial services; or services with the body present, culminating in burial or cremation following services. A very rough estimate is that you can reasonably expect to spend anywhere from $3,000- $7,000 on immediate disposition services, and anywhere from $6,000 - $11,000 on services with the body present. These are very broad estimates, however. We encourage you to review our "How Much Does a Funeral Cost?" planner, as well as consult with a funeral director, to get a more detailed, accurate estimate of what your particular desired services would cost.
2. "Should I be buried or cremated?" or "Should I have a viewing?"
This is a personal decision made by you and your family. Both burial and cremation are simply means of final disposition of the body - and neither affects your ability to have a viewing prior to the disposition. There are many reasons to choose one method or the other. Your selection will be determined by what is most important, and feels most comfortable, to you and your survivors. It is an important decision that should not be made lightly, and should be made in consultation, whenever possible, with those you will be leaving behind.
Many of us state that we don't want people "making a fuss" over us when we're gone, spending a lot of money, or don't want people looking at us. These are natural and fine sentiments of humility - but it is also important for us to remember that the funeral is not just about the deceased, but also about the opportunity for those close to us to say goodbye. It is important to balance our needs and desires with what will best help those who care about us grieve, gain closure and move forward.
A viewing can help those that care about us grieve and gain closure by confronting and accepting the reality of the death. Those outside the home, such as friends, coworkers, neighbors, and other associates may not have had the opportunity to see us before we passed and appreciate the opportunity to see us one final time. This might also be true for members of the family who don't live in the area, given how we are becoming more and more spread out geographically. Additionally, the processes of embalming and cosmetizing can help reduce the ravages of illness or age, restoring a more peaceful appearance; this can help our loved ones leave us with a more peaceful, serene image of us in their minds. Burial of the body, or of the ashes, leaves a peaceful, permanent location for family and friends to visit and remember us.
Cost, of course, can certainly be a concern as well. Perhaps viewing or burial is simply not cost-effective for you or your family, and thus other ways to memorialize can be found.
When considering your own funeral services, or those of a family member, it is important to consider a few key factors, such as:
Is it important to my family and friends that there be a viewing?
What can I (or my family) afford to spend?
Are my plans in accordance with my religious beliefs?
If I cremate, should my ashes be buried?
Again, the answers to these questions will differ from person to person, and family to family. We urge you consider them carefully and arrive at a conclusion that is beneficial to all concerned.
3. "Do I need to have a visitation the evening prior?"
The decision of whether to have a visitation the evening prior to services should be made independently of the decision of whether to have a viewing. Regardless of whether the body will be viewed, you should really take into consideration the number of attendees you would expect. If you anticipate having a large service, than you should strongly consider having the additional visitation time in the evening, in order to accommodate your visitors. An hour prior to the funeral is simply not enough time to comfortably receive and speak with a large number of attendees, and families often end up feeling overwhelmed. On the other hand, if you expect a smaller service, than an hour of visitation time prior to the service may be perfectly sufficient.
Adding additional visitation time during the day, immediately prior to the service, often does not alleviate the issue of not having sufficient time to greet all visitors. When the visitation is leading up to the service, regardless of how many hours of visitation there may be scheduled, the bulk of the attendees will come in the half hour prior to the start of the service. If you are concerned about having enough time, a wake the evening prior is the best solution.
4. "I want to be cremated. Do I have to belong to a cremation society?"
In a word, no. The various cremation societies you may have encountered or seen advertised are simply funeral homes operating under the name of a "cremation society" for marketing purposes. They are licensed by the State of Minnesota as funeral providers in exactly the same way as Mueller-Bies and every other funeral home in the state. All funeral homes offer cremation services, including our own. In fact, many "societies" charge a "membership fee" simply to start a file with your name; most funeral homes would be more than happy to assist you in recording your wishes at no charge. Mueller-Bies would never charge you a fee to record your funeral arrangement wishes with us.
6. "Cremation is cheaper than burial, right?"
Generally speaking, yes - but again, this is a broad question with a broad answer. All other factors being equal, if cremating prior to services, than yes, the services will ultimately be less expensive than they would have been if burying, or even if cremating after services. Service options vary greatly, however; it is not uncommon for a direct cremation service with burial of ashes at a cemetery, an expensive urn, lengthy obituaries, large and numerous floral arrangements, and other such optional items ultimately be more expensive than a simple direct burial with an inexpensive casket and vault. Again, please consult with a funeral director or see our "How Much Does a Funeral Cost?" planner for more information.
5. "Do I have to preplan my funeral?"
It is not required to do so, but it can certainly be helpful for a number of reasons. It can help you state your wishes; ensure necessary information such as vital statistics, military discharges or personal representation forms are available at the time of death; simplify the process for your survivors; and even save you and your family money. Please see our Planning Ahead page for more information.
7. "Are burial vaults required by law?"
They are not. They are, however, required for casketed burials by the policies of most cemeteries. Burial vaults prevent the eventual degradation of the casket and collapse of the grave, reducing cemetery upkeep costs and thus also reducing the cost of the grave property and grave opening.
For cremation burials, the policies vary. Many of the larger cemeteries require a basic concrete urn vault. Other cemeteries sometimes require one only if the the urn is constructed from a fragile or degradable material (i.e ceramic or wood), and still others have no requirement. Please consult with your chosen cemetery for more information.
8. "Do I have to be embalmed?"
Only if you choose services that require embalming. Embalming is only required by Minnesota law in four circumstances: 1) If the body will be publicly viewed; 2) If the body will not be buried or cremated (or otherwise preserved) within 72 hours (or six days, if refrigeration is available); 3) if the body will be transported by common carrier (i.e. air, train, etc.); or 4) by order of the Dept of Health, for public health protection (i.e. dangerous communicable disease). Essentially, if you choose services involving a public viewing, or if the body cannot be buried or cremated within 72 hours, then yes, embalming is required. If you choose direct cremation, direct burial, or closed casket services in which burial occurs within 72 hours (six days with refrigeration), then embalming is not required.
9. "I am (or my spouse is) a veteran. Can I be buried at Fort Snelling?"
Yes - provided you were honorably discharged and have committed no capital crimes. You must, however provide a copy of your DD-214 (or equivalent document, for WWII veterans) to the funeral home in order to arrange for the burial. If you do not have a copy of your DD-214, you may contact your local Veterans Service Office or see our Other Links & Info page for assistance in obtaining a replacement. All burial services at Fort Snelling are provided at no cost to you by the VA, including grave, interment, and monument (or wall niche, if desired, for cremated remains), as well as a minimum grave liner. You are permitted, if you desire, to purchase an upgraded burial vault, and the VA will reimburse you $250 of the purchase price.
If you choose burial in a private cemetery instead of Fort Snelling, you are eligible for a VA grave marker at no cost to you. The VA does not, however, provide markers for non-veteran spouses in private cemeteries; a matching marker for your spouse would have to be purchased by the family. You would be responsible for payment for the installation of either or both markers at the cemetery.
10. "Do I have to have a funeral?"
The decision is yours. The body must be disposed of (buried/cremated/donated) in accordance with state law; everything else is the decision of you and your family. If you do not wish to have any attendant rites or ceremonies associated with the burial or cremation, and your survivors are comfortable with not having those rites, than that is perfectly acceptable.
11. "Do I have to have publish an obituary?"
No. Although it is customary to notify people of the death with an obituary announcement, and may be necessary to publicize the date/time/location of services, it is not required.
12. "Can I prepay my funeral and still qualify for Medical Assistance?"
Absolutely. Prepaid burial funds are placed into an irrevocable insurance policy or trust, and thus are exempt from Medical Assistance asset limitations. Please see our Planning Ahead page for more information.