The final bill: Funeral planning eases a time of grief

SPARKY KNOWLTON/Miner

SPARKY KNOWLTON/Miner

KINGMAN - Preparations are always in place for happy times, such as the birth of children, graduations and weddings

But people don't always plan for death.

"Making arrangements for our final expenses is a very smart idea for many reasons," said Kristen Leitz Westwood, president of Lietze-Fraze Funeral Home and Crematory. "By doing this, a person's wishes are made known so there is no changing of their wishes and for people who may not have family to make such final decisions."

Some people pass away without family to make final decisions, and the body can wind up just waiting for someone to take responsibility for the deceased.

"We have had bodies here for six months because we don't have anyone to contact to make the decisions about what should be done. Most people have wills and power of attorney taken care of," Leitz Westwood said.

"Making arrangements for your death is the final step of having everything in place for your family."

The costs of final expenses are paid at the time these arrangements are made, and those costs are set in stone.

"If someone makes their final arrangements, those costs won't change, even if that person dies 30 years later - and those arrangements are transferable to any funeral home in the country," Leitz Westwood said.

"No matter how prepared people are for the death of loved one, when it happens it is much easier on everyone when everything is already decided and paid for in advance."

Options vary for bidding farewell

Life is tough - no one gets out alive, and death can be expensive for those left behind.

Just as costs vary, so do options for the dead and their loved ones. Most people choose the route of being buried, but cremation is also popular, followed by donating a body to science for research.

"There are these options and each family will choose what's best for them and the person who has died," said Jamie Sutton Zorn, funeral director with Sutton Memorial Funeral Home.

When a loved one passes away, an appointment is made with the funeral home that gets the death certificate. At that time, loved ones start making decisions as to what they would like for the person who has died.

"The decision as to what type of services will be used is made by the family," Sutton Zorn said. "But there are a few things that are required. For example, if a family wants to have a service where the body is displayed, that body must be embalmed for health reasons."

Embalming is roughly $400, depending on the funeral home.

Dying is not cheap. Many funeral homes have a minimum fee of about $1,100. Other fees include about $300 for the use of facilities and staff for three days. Use of the staff and facility for visitation runs about $175, and about $300 will be necessary for staff and services for funeral services.

Since final costs can be a burden, especially if the deceased has no life insurance, there are assistance programs through Mohave County. If the deceased is indigent, the county has a program that can be applied for at the funeral home.

Help for veterans is always available

Veterans have served their country and when they pass away, they are certainly not forgotten.

Out of respect, veterans receive special benefits upon dying.

"From the moment the veteran enters the gates of a national cemetery, everything is free. The burial, the headstone, everything done there is at no cost," said Jamie Sutton Zorn, funeral director at Sutton Memorial Funeral Home. "With regards to the spouse of the veteran, that will vary from state to state."

Although the cemetery fees are waived for veterans, it is important to note that the other costs remain: "The funeral home fees are not waived for veterans and their spouses. Those fees remain the same," Sutton Zorn said.

In the Kingman area, veterans and their spouses can receive free burials and headstones at national cemeteries, including the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona in Phoenix. At the Prescott national cemetery, only cremains are being accepted.

At the state-owned Boulder City, Nev., cemetery for veterans, the veterans are buried for free while a cost of approximately $450 is set for the spouses.

"If a veteran is being buried in a private cemetery, the VA will still provide a headstone for an unmarked grave and a flag with discharge papers" Sutton Zorn said.

Pat Farrell, president of Jerry Ambrose Veterans Council of Mohave County, noted the Marine Corps League and Veterans of Foreign Wars offer complimentary color guard and graveside services with the Marine Corps also offering to play "Taps" at no cost.

"It's important veterans and their families know about these programs," Farrell said.

"These are set up to assist families of veterans in their darkest time."

Finally, the VFW and JAVC offer graveside chaplains when needed.