|This short outline
is aimed at helping you make the initial steps in arranging a funeral or
cremation in the state of Virginia. If you are suddenly faced with
the task of arranging a funeral for a loved one who has just passed, it
can be an incredibly daunting task. Most people do not even think
about what is involved until they are suddenly thrust into making arrangements,
and it can be difficult to remain objective and make decisions when you
are overcome with grief. This is where it can help to enlist some
help and support from someone who can help you to make decisions objectively
whilst still being compassionate and respectful.
The first thing you are going
to need to do is chose a funeral director to handle the funeral services
for you. There are around 350 licensed funeral homes in the state
of Virginia. It will help if you already have a clear idea of what
the deceased’s wishes were. Do you wish to arrange a traditional burial,
or a cremation? Does the deceased already own a burial plot or cremation
niche? If you can establish some clear criteria before you start looking
for a funeral home, it will help you in the selection process.
If you are reading this article
it is likely you either have had no prior experience with a funeral home,
or are researching for different services. It is always recommended
to consult with family, friends and associates about their experience and
recommendations. Many turn to the Internet to research about funeral
products and services when cost is a factor.
Finding a funeral home or
cremation provider in Virginia
As there are so many funeral
homes and crematories to choose from, it can be difficult knowing where
to start, and which funeral home can offer best value whilst delivering
a dignified service. At US Funeral Online we have a complete funeral
home and cremation provider directory. All funeral businesses are
listed for free and by city in zip code order, making it exceptionally
easy for you to locate and compare funeral homes. Use our resource
section at the bottom of this page to access the directory for Funeral
Homes in Virginia or locate a Cremation Provider in Virginia. Or
alternatively you can use the left-hand link to the Funeral Homes directory.
What is the cost of a funeral
The cost of a funeral or cremation
can vary depending upon where you live in Virginia. Typically the
more rural you are, and the less competitive the death care industry is
in your area, the costs will be higher. The average cost for a burial
is around the $7,000 mark. The National Funeral Directors Association
surveyed the average cost of a funeral at $7,045 (2012) but this does NOT
include any cemetery costs. This average can vary depending on the
incremental products and services you may select such as caskets, burial
plots, cremation urn, funeral flowers and obituary notices. Adding
in cemetery fees is likely to make your total cost for a traditional burial
close to $10,000.
How much does a cremation
cost in Virginia?
More Virginians are choosing
cremation as a lower cost alternative to traditional burial. A cremation
is typically around a third of the cost of a traditional funeral.
There is no need for a casket, embalming, a burial vault or cemetery plot.
This significantly reduces the funeral expenses. A cremation can
cost anywhere between $1,200 to $4,000. It largely depends on the
type of cremation service you opt for. A cremation funeral, where
the deceased is present, a service is held and the cremation held afterwards
can cost upwards of $2,000. A basic cremation, otherwise referred
to as a direct cremation, can be obtained for much less. Depending
whereabouts in Virginia you require direct cremation services, it is likely
to cost between $1,195 and $1,570.
Arranging a low cost cremation
It is possible to arrange a
dignified cremation disposition for under $1,400 in most cities in Virginia.
The DFS Memorials network of low cost cremation providers are all licensed
funeral service providers in Virginia who understand the need for simple
and affordable funeral services. Call your local DFS Memorials provider
now to make arrangements for an inexpensive cremation.
Burial or Cremation?
If the deceased did not express
a preference, then you may need to decide what type of funeral to arrange.
Today around 32% of Virginians opt for a simple, and less expensive cremation,
rather than a burial. However, your family may have it’s own cemetery,
have already pre-purchased a cemetery plot, or prefer a traditional burial
service. Just be in control of what additional services may be offered
to you. A body does not have to be embalmed by law, and this can
be quite an additional expense, with no guarantee of preserving the body.
The need for embalming is largely dictated by how soon a funeral can be
arranged, and whether an open-casket viewing is required.
Understanding cremation laws
in Virginia – What you need to know to arrange a cremation
The Virginia Board of Funeral
Directors & Embalmers is responsible for the licensing of funeral homes
and crematories in Virginia. They govern the practice of cremation
of human remains. Before a cremation can go ahead there are certain requirements
to be met. A Cremation Authorization Form must be signed by the legal
next of kin. Once the cremation has been correctly authorized, the
funeral director can obtain the cremation permit. In many states
there is a mandatory legal waiting period of 24 hours before the actual
cremation can take place, but no such rule is in place in Virginia. That
being said it generally takes 24-48 hours to get all the legal paperwork
in order and the permit to cremate authorized. No casket is legally
required for a cremation but a rigid combustible container must be used.
This is generally referred to as the “cremation container” and is a reinforced
Know your rights – funeral
laws in Virginia and how they affect funeral purchases
All funeral homes in Virginia
are required by law to provide you with a General Price List that clearly
lists the prices for all their services. A funeral home should provide
you with information about all the services available to you, but at no
time should pressure you into a sale. The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC)
‘Funeral Rule’ is there to protect you as a funeral consumer, so ensure
you equip yourself with the knowledge about what your rights are.
Can I conduct a home funeral
Yes. Most people assume
that they have to employ the services of a funeral director to conduct
a funeral but there is no law requiring you to do so in Virginia.
You can conduct your own home funeral if you so wish. You would need
to file the death certificate and apply for the burial or cremation permit.
DIY Funerals, or home funerals, are an option for those families wishing
to tend to their own dead and reclaim the death care ritual. For
more information check out our articles on DIY Funeral Care and Green Funerals
in our Library/Info section.
need to purchase one from a
licensed funeral home – but we would recommend you price compare between
licensed funeral homes. Another alternative is to purchase a ‘Hope
Chest’ and use this to inter the deceased – there is no law to prevent
Purchasing a Casket in
Virginia is one of the remaining
few states where a casket has to be purchased from the funeral home and
cannot be purchased from a third party supplier who does not have a funeral
directors’ license. The mark-up that funeral homes add to a casket
can often make it the single most expensive element of the funeral expenses.
Funeral homes have been known to mark-up caskets at around 500%. This is
why the FTC had introduced the ‘funeral rule’ and encouraged consumers
to purchase funeral products from third-party suppliers. Unfortunately
there are a number of states where this rule does not apply, and Virginia
is one of them. If you require a casket, you will
Who is responsible for paying
for the funeral expenses?
There are basically 2 options
– either you preplan and prepay for your funeral expenses, or surviving
family will become liable for your disposition costs. You do not
have to formally set up a funeral contract with a funeral service provider,
but can make adequate provision by putting funds aside in a POD account
in order that the person who will arrange your funeral can access this
fund immediately upon the death. You can read more about this in
‘What is my best and safest option for putting aside money for a funeral?’
What are the laws governing
Scattering Ashes in Virginia?
There are various options for
the scattering of cremated remains in Virginia. If you intend to
scatter ashes on private land, you need only the consent of the landowner.
When it comes to scattering on uncontrolled public lands, such as rural
woodland, using a common-sense approach seems the best practice.
So long as there are no environmental or health and safety concerns, it
seems appropriate to adopt the “don’t ask, don’t tell” methodology!
If it is controlled public space, such as a park, there will be regulations
and a permit may be required.
If you wish to scatter ashes
off the coast of Virginia, you need to ensure that you are three miles
away from the coastline to conform to the Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) regulations as per Code of Federal Regulations at 40 CFR 229.1.
Cremated remains containers must be bio-degradable if they are to be used
to release ashes into the water, and flowers or wreaths are permitted so
long as they are solely constructed from natural, organic materials and
You can conduct a sea burial
yourself if you have a boat and observe the EPA guidelines, otherwise,
there are numerous ‘sea scattering’ charters both attended and unattended.
Virginia falls under Region
3 of the EPA Districts governed by the burial at sea regulations, and written
notice must be provided to the EPA Regional contact within 30 days of the
The contact for Virginia
is: Renee Searfoss
Burial At Sea Coordinator
EPA Region 3
1650 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
It may be possible to obtain
a payment of $255 from Social Security if the deceased, or the deceased’s
family meets the eligibility requirements. Other than that most of
the counties in Virginia have some rules and allowance to defray funeral
expenses for those unable to pay. Although you would need to meet
rigid poverty standards to qualify, and have very limited control over
the disposition arrangements.
What Help is available
with funeral expenses in Virginia?
There is nothing more sad, and
crippling, than a family who has to deal with a death when also coping
with financial troubles. Unfortunately a sudden death is not something
that we can defer until our finances can cope with it. If the deceased
was a veteran, or the spouse of a veteran, then there may be some assistance
available from the Department of Veterans Affairs [www.va.gov].
You may also find that your
local minister, or charity/community groups may have some kind of funds,
or support, to assist with funeral expenses for the needy.
Although they do not always
publicize it, many Mom & Pop funeral businesses will offer discounted
services to families in need.
Pre-planning a funeral,
purchasing burial insurance or pre-need funeral policies
It can greatly help matters
to have pre-planned, and/or pre-purchased a funeral. This can be
done by simply contacting a funeral home, establishing your needs and the
costs, writing out your wishes and setting aside the appropriate monies
for your next-of-kin. If you purchase a Pre-need funeral plan, these
are held in trust and it is important to ensure that the policy is kept
safe where family can access it. Surviving family have often already
paid out funeral expenses before they discover that a policy existed!
Many nursing homes and hospices
in Virginia are now requiring evidence of funeral insurance or a pre-need
policy before admitting patients, especially where a patient’s existing
estate can be swallowed up in their medical expenses, leaving little if
nothing for funeral expenses. Some funeral homes will offer special
discounted care packages for those entering palliative care.
How do I obtain a certified
copy of a death certificate in Virginia?
The funeral home will usually
obtain the necessary death certificates for you as part of their services.
They can only charge you the actual fee, which is $12 in Virginia.
In Virginia, a death certificate must be filed within 3 days of the death
and before the body is buried, cremated, or shipped. (Virginia Code §
32.1-263.) You will need certified copies to formally register the death
of the deceased with government institutions, banks and insurance companies,
etc. If you require additional copies the funeral director can order
these when arranging for the death certificate or you can obtain certified
copies at a later date.
Copies can be obtained from
the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) either by mail, in person, by phone
or electronically. You will need to provide ID to obtain death certificate
Whole Body Donation in
Donating a body to science (anatomical
gift) can be a preferred choice if you desire something completely alternative.
Most universities and medical schools accept whole body donations, and
there are also several national anatomical gift programs in the United
States. Not only are you doing something qualitative for humankind,
your donation secures a free cremation of the deceased’s remains.
This is often referred to as a “no-cost cremation” by many funeral homes,
as they can offer this service to the family for free by liaising with
a body donation program.
What do you do if your
loved one died away from Virginia?
If your loved one died whilst
away from home, this adds further distress to an already stressful situation.
You will need to make arrangements at the place of death, and also with
a funeral home in Virginia if you are transporting the remains home for
burial. How complicated this can be depends largely on where they
died, and the circumstances of their death.
If your loved one died overseas,
you will need a funeral professional versant in international funeral shipping,
able to conduct the necessary services abroad, arrange the consulate paperwork
and shipping whilst liaising with your funeral home. Visit our section
on ‘Funeral Shipping’
to read in more detail if you require international funeral shipping services.
If your loved one has passed
away in another part of Virginia, or another state in the U.S., then a
Mortuary Transport company can be called upon to collect the body to return
it to your local funeral home. Your local funeral director should
be able to coordinate this for you.
Funeral Transport can be
a significant additional cost to your funeral expenses, so do check this
carefully before committing to any services.
The simplest, and most cost-effective,
approach when someone has died away from home is often to arrange a direct
cremation at the place of death and have the cremated remains shipped back
for a memorial service.
Who can I contact if a
have a complaint or grievance with a funeral home in Virginia?
It is a rarity that a funeral
home fails in their service standards, but it does happen. If you do have
a grievance, it is recommended you attempt to resolve this directly with
the funeral home in the first instance. If you cannot do this, then
you can contact the Virginia Funeral Directors Association who will assist
you. You can also contact the Funeral Consumers Alliance, which is
an independent consumer organization that protects consumers rights in
||Expert Author: Sara
Sara is the Editor in Chief
for US Funerals Online and has been researching and writing about the death
care industry in the US for the last 5 years.
Last Revised: 11/18/2014
Homes in Virginia