Posted on Friday, 25th April 2014 by

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Updated 2/20/2024

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 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.

National Cemeteries

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 interned 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.

Options / Price Comparisons

To compare costs, I visited several cemeteries in the area to obtain quotes for two graves, vaults, and internment fees. Prices for these items ranged from a low of $9,000 to $14,870 in 2014 not counting funeral arrangements and headstones. Prices are higher in 2024 and closer to $13,500 to $20,000. Two can be interned in one grave with a deeper vault.

We first visited our local funeral home in February of 2017 and the price for their services including casket, embalming, hearse, a short religious service at the home, with a half day viewing was $7,745 per person. When I went back on August of 2023 the price increased to $9,995. A 23 percent increase over a five-year period.

The majority of the increase was the cost of the casket, it increased from $2,565 to $3,730! I just may have to order our caskets from Costco and store them in our basement, just kidding!

Adding the grave site and funeral services together for a couple is an astounding $30,000 to $40,000 for two burials depending on the options you choose! You can see why veteran’s frequently select the national cemetery option which reduces their final arrangement costs appreciably.


Cremation is generally less expensive; However, cremation costs can be high 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.

The Process

Executors or trustees of an estate would follow your final arrangement plans at the time of death. It makes things much easier if they have your detailed final arrangement plans that identify the services and burial location desired. It makes sense to purchase the grave site or crypt ahead of time, arrange for funeral service’s insurance or meet with a local funeral home to set up a plan for when the time comes.

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 originally prepared our wills, powers of attorney using WillMaker Plus by Intuit.  This software package offers a detailed final arrangement document that you can keep with you wills and other documents.

I met with a local funeral home and selected the services desired and they kept a copy for their records. When the time comes our family would contact them to set everything we preplanned into motion.

Plan Contents

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 still available, easy to read and only 100 pages of which 30 are devoted to entering the information needed for your personal plan.

Our Decision

We were considering burial at the local national cemetery, it is about 20 miles from our home, or purchasing a crypt at a local cemetery mausoleum just three miles down the road and not far from our church. The cost for a mausoleum crypt is about on par with 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 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. We decided to pay for the local crypt.


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 final arrangements off as long as possible and for me it was about time to settle on our “forever home.” The cost of the crypt we purchased was paid off in 7 years through a no interest loan, one we couldn’t pass up.

Review Part 1 of this series if you missed it when first posted.

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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.

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.

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