Posted on Friday, 25th April 2014 by

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My Aunt Pauline and Uncle Jack preplanned their final arrangements in their early 50s. Uncle Jack had several major heart attacks in his mid 40s and thought for sure he would be the first one to go.  He lived to 81 and my aunt passed away a year before he died. They purchased graves and actually had the headstone placed on the graves and engraved with their names and birth dates. When my aunt passed first the cemetery had a stone mason add the date.  After Uncle Jack died, he was a world war II veteran, I contacted the VA and had a military marker placed at the foot of his grave. I think My aunt and Uncle would have appreciated that.

If you or your spouse is a veteran both of you can be buried at a national cemetery. The government pays for the cost of the grave and internment. Your local funeral director will assist with the arrangements. My cousin’s husband was buried at the National Cemetery in Washington County PA and the grounds are beautifully maintained in a quiet  country setting.

Veteran’s burial benefits include a gravesite and vault in any of our 131 national cemeteries with available space, opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care, a Government headstone or marker, a burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate, at no cost to the family. Cremated remains are buried or inurned in national cemeteries in the same manner and with the same honors as casketed remains.

Burial benefits available for spouses and dependents buried in a national cemetery include burial with the Veteran, perpetual care, and the spouse or dependents name and date of birth and death will be inscribed on the Veteran’s headstone, at no cost to the family. Eligible spouses and dependents may be buried, even if they predecease the Veteran.

To compare costs I visited several private cemeteries in the area to obtain quotes for two graves, vaults, and internment fees. Prices for all of the above ranged from a low of $9,000 to $14,870 not counting funeral arrangements. One local church affiliated group offered complete packages including funeral home viewings and services that cost on average of $7,500 per person for a standard funeral. Total costs for everything ranged from $25,220 to $29,870 for a couple. You can see why veteran’s frequently select the national cemetery option which reduces their final arrangement costs appreciably.

I discovered that Cremation can also be expensive depending on how it is arranged. For example,  embalming may be required for extended viewings unless you elect to do the cremation before the viewing and simply display the urn. A grave or niche may be needed  for cremated remains while others spread the ashes of a loved one at a location that held special meaning for the deceased.

You can either pay in advance through various cemetery associations and funeral homes for burial and funeral services,  start by purchasing the rights to the graves, and/or at a minimum prepare a list of your wishes. The goal is to have a plan showing where you wish to be buried, data collected that will be needed by the funeral home for the death certificate and notices, the desired ceremony, viewings,  grave site, and funds either set aside or prepaid.  I prepared our wills, powers of attorney using WillMaker Plus by Intuit.  This software package includes a detailed final arrangement document that you can keep with you wills and other documents.

Most funeral homes will provide final arrangement booklets or forms for you to use and many funeral directors will maintain a copy on file for your heirs. Another option is to complete a basic plan by outlining the following areas for each party and adding it to your estate plan and paperwork:

  • Personal Information (Address, occupation, schools attended, Military Service, and organizations that you belong to) for you and your spouse.
  • Veterans must have a copy of their DD-214 discharge paperwork if they decide to take advantage of the national cemetery option. To obtain a copy of your DD-214 form visit the National Archive site to request a copy online , by mail or fax. You can Fax a SF-180 form to them at 314-801-9195. For those without internet access call their customer service center at 1-866-272-6272 for assistance. They can send the forms.
  • Family information (Parents names, addresses and birthdates,  including your mother’s maiden name, brothers, and sisters)
  • Other Relatives and Friends (Relationship, names, addresses, and phone numbers)
  • Emergency Contacts
  • Organization Affiliations
  • Insurance Policies
  • Cemetery Arrangements (Location, contact number, etc.)
  • Final Arrangements (Church, funeral home preference, and specifics such as casket, flowers, organist, clothing, etc.)

I reviewed an excellent book on this subject titled Ahead of Your Time, A complete Guide to End-of-Life Planning several years ago that you may find helpful.  It is easy to read and only 100 pages of which 30 are devoted to entering the information needed for your personal plan.

we are considering burial at the local national cemetery, it is about 20 miles from our home, or purchasing a crypt at a local community mausoleum just three miles down the road and not far from our church. The cost for a mausoleum crypt can be considerably less expensive than a standard in-ground burial. For example, you don’t need a vault or headstone and the headstone alone for a standard grave can cost from $2,000 to $8,000 or more.  One note of caution, when I said that burial in a community mausoleum can be less expensive that holds true generally if you purchase it ahead of time. They offer a considerable preplanning price reductions as an incentive to purchase ahead of time. In our case the preplanning cost savings were $3,700.

If you decide to take advantage of the veteran’s burial benefit review the funeral director’s proposal carefully. Most funeral directors have standard packages prepared and may inadvertently have charges in the proposal that would not be required for burial at a national cemetery.  For example, most funeral packages include the vault and other grave site services. Make sure these charges are not included.

I believe most tend to put this off as long as possible. Since I’m turning 65 next month I decided it was time to at least explore the options in detail and to open the dialog with my wife about this sensitive issue.  I hope to have our plans completed shortly.

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The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, and financial information is subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact your benefits coordinator and ask them to review your official personnel file and circumstances concerning this issue. Retirees can contact the OPM retirement center. Our article is not intended nor should it be considered investment advice and our articles and replies are time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

Last 5 posts by Dennis Damp


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