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Preparing for a funeral: a practical guide to making informed decisions

Funerals are a difficult time, both emotionally and organizationally. That’s why it’s essential to prepare well for this stage, so as to pay poignant tribute to the deceased and respect his or her wishes.

With this practical guide, I’d like to provide you with valuable information and advice.

The different types of funeral

There are two main types of funeral: burial and cremation. Each of these options has its advantages and disadvantages. So it’s important to be familiar with them so you can make an informed choice based on the wishes of the deceased and your budget.

Burial

Burial involves burying the body of the deceased in a coffin, also known as a beer. This type of funeral is often chosen for religious or traditional reasons. Costs associated with burial include the purchase of land, the installation of a funeral monument and the upkeep of the burial site.

Cremation

Cremation involves burning the body of the deceased at a very high temperature in a crematorium. The ashes are then scattered, preserved in a funerary urn or placed in a columbarium. Cremation is generally less costly than burial, but is not accepted by all religions.

Administrative formalities

When someone dies, a number of administrative formalities must be carried out. The first step is to register the death with the local town hall. This must be done within 24 hours of the death.

The next step is to contact the deceased’s insurance company to check whether he or she had taken out funeral insurance, which could cover all or part of the funeral expenses.

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It is also important to find out the deceased’s wishes regarding the type of funeral, by consulting his or her will or by asking relatives.

Funeral expenses

Funeral costs can vary considerably, depending on the choices and services selected. The average cost of a burial in France is between 3,000 and 5,000 euros, while that of a cremation varies between 2,000 and 4,000 euros. Here are a few points to consider when estimating the budget required:

Coffin costs

The cost of a coffin varies according to material (wood, cardboard, metal), model and finish. Expect to pay between 400 and 2,500 euros for a wooden coffin, and between 800 and 3,500 euros for a metal one.

Body transport costs

The cost of transporting the body depends on the distance to be covered and the type of vehicle chosen. Rates vary from 200 to 1,500 euros.

Ceremony costs

Ceremony costs include the fees for the master of ceremonies, the rental of a place of worship or hall, as well as decorations and flowers. They range from 500 to 3,000 euros.

Body conservation care

Body conservation care, or “thanatopraxy”, is designed to delay decomposition of the deceased and prepare him or her for presentation to relatives at a wake. They are carried out by a qualified professional, the thanatopractor, and involve injecting preservatives and disinfecting the body.

This care is optional, but may be required in certain cases, for example during long-distance transport. The cost of conservation care varies between 300 and 1,000 euros.

The legal and medical aspects of funerals

Funerals are closely regulated by law, particularly as regards the time and place of burial or cremation. To avoid any problems, it’s essential to find out about legal obligations.

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Legal deadlines

The law stipulates a minimum period of 24 hours between death and burial or cremation, and a maximum period of 6 working days. However, these deadlines may be extended in cases of medical or legal necessity, or if the deceased dies abroad.

Necessary authorizations

Authorization for burial or cremation must be obtained from the town hall of the place of death. For cremation, it is also necessary to provide a medical certificate attesting that the deceased was not wearing any medical device incompatible with cremation (prosthesis, pacemaker, etc.).

Forensic medicine

In certain cases, notably violent or suspicious deaths, an autopsy may be ordered by the public prosecutor. This forensic procedure may entail additional costs and delays in organizing the funeral.

By carefully following this guide, you will be able to make informed decisions to best prepare your loved one’s funeral. We also recommend that you contact a funeral director for personalized advice and services tailored to your needs.

Advance directives and designation of a trusted support person

It is important to take into account the wishes of the deceased concerning his or her funeral arrangements. Advance directives are a way for the deceased to make known, during his or her lifetime, his or her wishes regarding funeral arrangements. They can be drawn up in writing and kept by a relative, a notary or a funeral director. It is advisable to also inform a trusted person of the funeral wishes, so that he or she can ensure that they are respected after the death.

The appointment of a trusted support person is also useful in helping the family with administrative formalities and funeral arrangements. This person can be a family member, a friend or a funeral director. This person’s role will be to coordinate the various interventions (placing the body in the coffin, transporting the body, ceremony) and to ensure that the funeral goes smoothly.

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The funeral insurance contract

A funeral insurance contract can be used to finance all or part of the funeral expenses. This contract can be taken out during the lifetime of the deceased, with an insurance company or a funeral director. It provides for the payment of a lump sum to the designated beneficiaries (family, funeral directors) at the time of death, to cover funeral expenses.

There are several types of funeral insurance contract, offering varying guarantees and benefits. Some contracts cover all funeral expenses, while others cover only part of the cost. It is therefore important to carefully read the terms and conditions of the contract and compare offers to choose the one that best meets the needs and wishes of the deceased.

Funeral expenses paid by local authorities

In certain situations, funeral expenses can be covered by local authorities, under the terms of the Code général des collectivités territoriales. This applies in particular to people who have died without sufficient resources and without relatives capable of covering funeral expenses. In this case, the town hall of the place of death is required to organize and finance the funeral.

This is also possible for deceased persons whose body has not been claimed by the family. In this case, the mayor’s office must proceed with the burial or cremation of the body, in accordance with any wishes expressed by the deceased. The costs incurred by the local authority may then be recovered from the heirs, within the limits of the resources available in the estate.

Preparing for a funeral is a delicate stage, both emotionally and organizationally. It’s essential to be well informed about the various options, costs, administrative procedures and legal and medical aspects to be taken into account. Taking into account advance directives, appointing a trusted support person and taking out a funeral insurance policy can greatly facilitate the organization of the funeral and alleviate the financial burden on loved ones. Don’t hesitate to consult funeral professionals to help you through this difficult time.

Melissa T, a journalist and web writer, is the curious mind behind "Death Chronicles," an original blog that approaches death in a unique and unconventional way. Driven by a passion for the subject since her youth, she launched this blog to demystify death, providing accurate information with a touch of humor and irreverence. Melissa explores all aspects of death, from historical and cultural perspectives to medical advancements, while also addressing sensitive topics such as grief and funeral rituals. Her sensitive and empathetic approach gives a voice to those often forgotten in the narrative of death, and "Death Chronicles" has become an invaluable resource for those seeking to understand and celebrate the inevitable end of our earthly journey.

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