arrangements can be a daunting task. There are so many decisions
to be made, often when you are feeling most vulnerable and without the
luxury of time. Financial concerns can often be a worry to a family
today, and this can add even further stress about making funeral arrangements.
We have put together this
guide to arranging a funeral or cremation in Wisconsin to assist families
through some of the initial questions they may have. This article
covers how Wisconsin funeral laws affect a funeral consumer, and aims to
provide you with some top tips for saving money on a funeral.
expenses? Obviously having
some clear ideas of what you do need from a funeral home helps you make
the decision of which funeral home is right for you.
Choosing a funeral home in Wisconsin
One of the first tasks to do,
especially if a death has just occurred, is to select a funeral home to
handle the funeral services.
There are in the region of
800 funeral homes and mortuaries in Wisconsin so you need to consider what
criteria can help you select the right funeral home for your needs.
Do you require a traditional funeral or burial service? Or are you
seeking a more contemporary life celebration service, or a cremation?
Is the cost of the funeral an issue, are you working to a tight budget
and looking to save money where you can on funeral
Many people seek recommendations
or referrals from family or friends, and this is a very good way to get
information. However, if you are not in a position to benefit from
a sound referral, or you are seeking something specific, you may have to
resort to contacting funeral homes yourself. Usually people look
for a reputable funeral business in their own area, but it is always advisable
to check with more than one funeral home and compare services and prices
for a funeral or cremation.
What does an average funeral
The average cost of a funeral
in the U.S. is $7,045 (according to the NFDA - National Association of
Funeral Directors 2012), and this does not include any cemetery fees.
The cost for a traditional burial is largely dependent on the type of casket
you select and the final cost of your cemetery plot and grave marker.
Basic funeral director’s services for a traditional burial can be found
for around $4,500 in Wisconsin.
All funeral homes in Wisconsin
must have a general price list (GPL). The GPL lists all their service
charges and funeral merchandise prices. A funeral home must provide
a copy of their GPL when they quote you a price according to the Federal
Trade Commission’s ‘The Funeral Rule’.
We do recommend you compare
funeral prices from more than one funeral home to ensure that you have
a “best value” funeral service. Funeral prices can, and do, vary
around $1,000. This is
the least expensive cremation option for families. A direct cremation
means that there are no services, the cremation is conducted after the
mandatory waiting period of 48 hours and all the cremation documentation
has been completed. The cremated remains are then returned to the
family in a temporary container. Incremental options, such as a private
family viewing or an upgraded cremation urn, can be added to a basic direct
cremation package for an additional fee.
How much does a cremation cost
A typical cremation funeral
service will cost in the region of $3,200* (depending upon the ancillary
services/products you select). This is the type of cremation service
that replaces a full traditional funeral. However, it is possible
to arrange a cremation for considerably less than this.
Arranging a direct cremation
A direct cremation can be arranged
in Wisconsin for
Legalities of arranging a cremation
The legal next of kin is responsible
for making cremation arrangements and a cremation authorization form must
be signed before a cremation can proceed. There is a 48-hour legal
waiting period before the cremation can go ahead. A cremation permit
is required from the local county, and in Wisconsin it seems cremation
permits are quite expensive. Cremation permit fees range from $75.00 to
$325.00 in Milwaukee County. Here is a list of fees by county: http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/vitalrecords/pdf/coronermefees2012.pdf
Similarly death certificate
process fees range from $35.00 to $150.00. You do not need a casket
for a cremation, a basic cremation container can be used, so this saves
on costs. If you are holding a viewing or funeral service prior to
cremation, some funeral homes will offer a rental casket or viewing bed
for this purpose.
How do I decide between a burial
or a cremation in Wisconsin?
Whether to opt for burial or
cremation is entirely a personal choice, or may be dictated by available
funds for the funeral. As mentioned above, a cremation will work
out far cheaper than a burial. You may be influenced if the deceased
left explicit wishes and/or a funeral plan. If a cemetery plot is
already owned this may influence your decision.
Burial was once the preferred
choice in Wisconsin, but it was reported in 2012 that cremation had overtaken
burial as the preferred funeral option for families in Wisconsin.
If you are unsure about whether
you want a burial or a cremation, you can read further articles on cremation
vs. burial from our Library/Info section. You can also talk to family,
friends and your support network.
Does the deceased have to be
embalmed in Wisconsin?
There is no legal requirement
that stipulates that the deceased must be embalmed. However, some
funeral homes may adopt policies that insist upon embalming if a public
viewing or service is being held. If you proceed with a timely funeral,
there is really no need for embalming (and it can just be another fee to
add to your funeral costs!) If you are opting for a cremation there
is really no need for embalming.
Purchasing a casket or grave
marker in Wisconsin
Here at US Funerals Online we
have comprehensive guides to buying a casket or grave marker, so I would
recommend you visit these sections for more detailed information.
The laws concerning consumer rights when purchasing a casket are regulated
by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) but can vary by state. In Wisconsin
you CAN purchase a casket from a third-party seller and your funeral home
MUST accept it without a surcharge.
could indeed be coming down.
Funeral companies promote preplanning on the basis that it “locks into
today’s prices”, but with the cremation trend increasing, and more funeral
homes competing for the ‘affordable’ funeral market – the reality is that
funeral costs are not as ‘fixed’ as they once were.
Can I pre-plan a funeral in
Yes, and this is becoming a
preferred choice for many families now. Pre-planning your funeral
alleviates your family of both the difficult decisions and the financial
burden of funeral expenses. You can make pre-need funeral arrangements
direct with a funeral home or purchase burial insurance.
What you DO need to consider
is that funeral prices
Another funeral planning
alternative is to document your wishes and put aside the appropriate funds
in a POD Payable on Death account or a Totten Trust. This enables
family to access the funds at the time of need and make the funeral arrangements,
but you keep in control of your monies and any accrued interest.
Read more in our article ‘What is my best and safest option for putting
aside money for a funeral’.
Can I donate my body to science
Yes, donating your body to science
can be a great way to facilitate your disposition arrangements, be a ‘gift’
to society, and also mean that you do not have any funeral expenses.
Most of the national organizations that deal with full body donation handle
everything from the moment you notify them of the death, including collecting
the body, the donation, the free cremation and the return of the cremated
remains to the family a few weeks later. Many more people in Wisconsin
are choosing body donation now, and once they have had the cremated remains
returned to them at no-cost, they then arrange their own memorial service
for the family. Check out our Body Donation section.
How can I transport a loved
one either back to, or from, Wisconsin after death?
If a loved one needs to be transported
back to a state or country of origin following their death in Wisconsin,
you will need the services of a funeral director who can arrange funeral
shipping for you. This generally needs a funeral professional who
can coordinate arrangements at the place of death and wherever the body
is being shipped to.
If transporting a loved one
between states in the United States you have the option of transporting
the body by land or air (depending on the distance). Certain regulations
do apply on moving a body, and it is likely that embalming will be required
as well as specific containers to hold the casket. Shipping a body
can be quite expensive, so the other alternative you have is to have the
body cremated at the place of death, and then transport back the cremated
remains. Visit our section on Funeral Shipping to read more.
What financial assistance, or
public aid, is available to help families’ who cannot afford a funeral?
Sadly we are asked this question
all too often today. In Wisconsin there is the Wisconsin Funeral
and Cemetery Aids Program (WFCAP) operated by the Department of Health
Services (DHS). There are eligibility requirements too complex to
go into here but WFCAP may reimburse cemetery and/or funeral expenses of
a person who, on the date of death met the eligibility requirements. [Check
eligibility requirements here: http://www.emhandbooks.wisconsin.gov/wfcap/fcap.htm]
Up to $1,500 are reimbursed for funeral home costs and $1,000 for cemetery
Veterans are also entitled
to certain benefits, such as a free cemetery plot and grave marker.
The VA cemetery in Milwaukee is now closed to new interments but there
are state-run cemeteries at King, Spooner and Union.
Can I conduct a home funeral
Yes, you can conduct a home
funeral as state law permits this and you do NOT have to employ the services
of a funeral home. Conducting your own DIY funeral can be a great
way to restore personalization to a ‘natural’ ritual. Green burial
is gaining some popularity and some cemeteries now offer green burial sections.
There are a number of organizations that support families with home funerals
in Wisconsin. You can read more about this in the article ‘DIY Funeral
Care: Family-directed Funerals’.
There are no specific laws
concerning burial on your own land but you should check with local ordnance
on zoning and ensure you follow certain guidelines about burying human
remains. i.e. away from water sources and power lines. You need to
lodge the burial site with the property deeds.
Who should I contact if I have
a complaint about a funeral home in Wisconsin?
The funeral industry is regulated
like any other consumer sector and if you should need to make a formal
complaint this can be done via the Federal Trade Commission or Wisconsin.gov
Department of Regulation and Licensing that regulates funeral establishments,
crematories and cemeteries in Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin Funeral Directors
Association can be contacted at: 22 E. Mifflin Street Suite 1010, Madison,
WI 53703, Phone: 608-256-1757
I hope this guide has helped
to answer some of your immediate questions. Please check out our
Library/info section for our full catalogue of resources to help you through
the process of arranging a funeral. Feel free to contact us if we
can be of any assistance.
||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.
Homes in Wisconsin
Cost Funeral & Cremation Providers in Wisconsin