Questions and General Information About the Funeral Industry
● Is it safe and prudent to pre-arrange and pay for a funeral out of New York State?
● Can anyone get a price list for a complete funeral?
● What are the funeral home charges?
● What are the Cash Advances?
● What are cemetery burial charges and why are they different at each cemetery?
● Are all Jewish "named" chapels owned and operated by Jews?
● Are there "non profit" chapels and do they charge less for funerals?
● Are funeral packages offered by National Jewish Organizations cost effective?
Is it safe and prudent to pre-arrange and pay for a funeral out of New York State?
It is well known that an overwhelming majority of all those that retire in the Sunbelt states are solicited constantly by chapels and cemeteries to purchase funeral packages. At times seniors are intimidated and coerced into believing that returning to a New York or New Jersey cemetery costs many thousands of dollars. What is not known by the unsuspecting consumer is that a large portion of the money they spend to pre-arrange these funerals is spent as commissions for the salesmen, the funeral director and the chapels. Should they change their mind they will never get back all of the money they may have paid. The loss can run into thousands of dollars per funeral. Furthermore, in Florida over a hundred million dollars was recently taken by well known corporate owners of chapels and cemeteries so that they can pay debts and Law suit losses. Newspapers have also reported other burial atrocities that has befallen the Jewish Community in Florida because the State is lax in regulating the funeral industry. In New York State there is a Law that forbids any money be taken by funeral directors, chapels and cemeteries from any trust fund that is set up for pre-need funerals and the care of graves. Our organization’s participating funeral directors and chapels entrust 100 percent of the money pre-paid for funerals into an FDIC insured fund in Albany. In fact, the payment is made directly to the fund. This money is first paid to the chapel only after the funeral is completed. Pre-need funeral contracts in New York can be revocable so that the consumer will be returned all the money paid plus all the accrued interest upon request. All New York “Non Profit” cemeteries are also required to secure every dollar paid for perpetual grave care into government audited accounts under the control of the New York State, Department of State. The cemetery must also permit the return or resale of graves for the original purchase price plus no less than 4 percent simple annual interest. Thus, there are glaring advantages to making arrangements to return to the New York area by enrolling as a member to receive the valuable savings of our benefits. Likewise, there are New York State Laws that make it certain that all the money invested in pre-planning a funeral will either be returned or available to pay the bill.
One may also choose to make a contract for a pre-need funeral in New York which is irrevocable. A great advantage of this type of contract is that all monies paid can never be taken back to be used for nursing home or other medical expenses after one has spent all their other funds and assets on this type of care. Medicaid, thereafter, will pay these healthcare expenses leaving all that was spent for the pre-need funeral intact. This assures a family that there will be little or nothing to pay at the time of a funeral. Medicaid also permits the pre-purchase of a grave, planting, perpetual care and a monument. The only disadvantage to an irrevocable contract is that the money will never be returned and can only be used for the contracted funeral expenses. However return of the money if one is “spending down” for Medicaid is not an issue.
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Can anyone get a price list for a complete funeral?
Yes, New York State Law requires every Chapel, when called, to quote their entire list of charges and fees on the telephone. They must provide to you all the prices which are printed in their General Price List (GPL) for the type of funeral you choose, ie; Chapel Service, Graveside Service, Direct Burial, etc. Furthermore, New York City Law requires every chapel to have in their lobby copies of their GPL which anyone, anonymously, can take from the building. You do not have to give your name, your address or telephone number to the chapel or any funeral director when requesting prices. A GPL will list the Funeral home charges as well as a menu of the potential Cash Advances.If called, the staff at the United Hebrew Community of New York will assist any consumer upon verbal request to obtain a GPL.
What are the funeral home charges?
These charges may include some if not all of the following: Transfer of Remains (removal from the place of death to the chapel), Refrigeration, Use of Preparation Room, Arrangements (of the funeral), Supervision ( by licensed personnel and other staff in the chapel and at the cemetery), Chapel (use of the building for the funeral service as well as for other family gatherings requested), Casket/Coffin selection by the family, Shroud, Livery (use of hearse or alternate vehicle to transport the coffin to the cemetery), Limousine(s) or alternate passenger car(s), Temporary Grave Marker, Candles, Sign In Registry, Talis, Additional Shipping Equipment as may be required, Concrete Grave Liners that may be requested or required by a cemetery and any other merchandise or services that may be offered by the chapel.
There are other Funeral Home Charges listed on most General Price Lists (GPL). Every person who arranges a funeral should be attentive to the details and should ask for an explanation of any additional charges. As only one example, chapels charge additional fees for livery beyond a certain distance.
Members of the United Hebrew Community of New York always have the benefit of our advocating for them and for their families when arranging a funeral.
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What are the Cash Advances?
Grave Opening (cemetery charges), Transcripts (copies of death certificates), Shomer (watcher), Rabbi, Obituaries, Tahara (ritual washing and dressing), Out of Town funeral Director (when shipping from out of State), Air Freight and any other charges and fees that are paid to others by the chapel on behalf of a family.
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What are cemetery burial charges and why are they different at each cemetery?
All cemeteries charge a fee for digging a grave as well as for all other services they provide. The fees in New York are approved by a New York State agency that oversees cemetery operations. New Jersey fees are set by each cemetery and are only monitored by their State.
Grave opening fees include the cemetery digging and closing the grave as well as carrying and lowering the coffin. Families have the option, upon request, of participating in the actual burial should they want to carry and lower the coffin or fill the grave. Cemeteries may also charge for the removal of obstructing trees, shrubs, beds, benches and previous family monumental work. They most often charge for the use of a mechanical lowering devise, artificial grass covers and tents and chairs if available. Prices may vary considerably in each cemetery and the current average charges are generally in the range of $1000.00+. Many cemeteries charge extra for Sunday burials. Overtime charges must be paid in all cemeteries if the funeral procession arrives after a specific time. This time, in the afternoon, varies according to each cemetery. Some will charge extra if those attending the burial remain after the regular time of closing. The time of closing many also vary according to the cemetery. All the prices must be publicly posted in the cemetery office.
Contact the office of the United Hebrew Community of New York should you want to obtain specific cemetery charges.
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Are all Jewish "named" chapels owned and operated by Jews?
Absolutely not. In the past few decades many of the independently owned chapels which were also operated by the owners along with family were sold to large public corporations. None of these corporate boards are controlled by Jewish families. In fact, each chapel’s General Price List (GPL), its management team and their policies as well as all of the staff are approved or selected by the corporate entity. In New York, New Jersey and Florida many Jewish chapels were bought by either Service Corporation International (SCI) of Houston, Texas or the Lowen Group of British Columbia, Canada. A few years ago the Lowen Group filed for bankruptcy and was reorganized under the name Alderwoods Group. SCI, the larger of the two corporations has also suffered financially in past years, and their stock price had plummeted to just a few dollars. In many chapels the families that sold may remain under contract for a few years to run the facility for the corporation. All the chapels retain their original names which continue to identify them as Jewish to the general public. In New York City only, these corporate owned chapels must, by Consumer Affair’s Law, prominently identify the corporate name on a sign in the entrance lobby and also identify actual ownership in smaller type on their funeral contracts and printed advertisements. The most popularly known chapels owned by these corporations are: Riverside Memorial Chapels: Manhattan / Westchester / Brooklyn / Queens, Boulevard Park West, Schwartz Brothers, Jeffers Chapel, Forest Park Chapel, Nassau North Chapel, Gramercy Chapel, Blau Chapel, Zion Chapel, Nevsky Chapel, I.J. Morris Chapels: Brooklyn / Dix Hills / Hempstead, Gutterman Musicant Chapels, Wein and Wein Chapel, Boulevard-Riverside Hewlett Chapel, Hellman Chapel, Yablokoff Kingsway Chapel and Hirsch and Sons Chapel. There are others with lesser known names. Even though the same corporation is the owner of multiple chapels their “Funeral Home Charges” have been known to vary. The N.Y.C. Department of Consumer Affairs claimed that the theory of the price differential is based upon the location of the chapel and the economic expectations of the neighborhood by the corporation. Most family owned and operated chapels that still exist proudly advertise that they are “family”. However, it is the consumer families that must ask, if they are interested in knowing before making decisions, about the ownership of any chapel.
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Are there "non profit" chapels and do they charge less for funerals?
In the New York area there is currently one chapel that is Incorporated as a Not-For-Profit. Uptown Manhattan’s, “Plaza Community Chapel” was opened some years ago by a few private contributors and others who were able to lend funds for the purchase of the existing Plaza Chapel building. Along with these funds, very large sums of U.J.A. and other charity monies were expended on this enterprise.
The Board of Directors of the chapel corporation claimed, from the onset, that their non-profit status offers the public the opportunity to pay lower prices compared to the “For-Profit” chapels. Unfortunately, this is a bit misleading. Yes, they have structured their prices to be lower than their close Manhattan neighbor, Riverside Memorial Chapel. Nonetheless, they are considerably more expensive than some of the family owned chapels that of course seek to make a profit. Furthermore, it is ironic that Non-Profit corporations do not pay either N.Y.C. property taxes or corporate taxes while family chapel owners are obligated to pay. Like all other businesses, these tax payments are part of the overhead expenses. Hence, consumer families, when paying for a funeral, all share the “For-Profit” chapel’s tax expenses. Still, the “Not-For-Profit” chapel has, for the most part, higher prices.
Our participating chapels are all “For-Profit”, nonetheless, overwhelmingly, members of the United Hebrew Community of New York pay far less for a funeral than the cost of the same funeral at the “Not-For-Profit” chapel.
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Are funeral packages offered by National Jewish Organizations cost effective?
Recent Magazine and newspaper advertisements briefly describe the special relationships between organizations and chapels that claim to reduce the price of a standard orthodox funeral. Some are known to use a well known organization’s famous logo in their ads. It is true that these funerals may cost less than the same funeral at the same chapel if the consumer does not request the discount. However, most other chapels, if requested, will match the prices. Ironically, some well known orthodox organizations have contracted with chapels for these funerals knowing they are not owned or operated by Torah observant or even Jewish families. Tragically, what is not disclosed by the orthodox organizations is that most of these chapels also arrange funerals that are not k’halacha or even traditionally Jewish. It is incumbent upon every family member, Rabbi or friend who assumes the responsibility of contacting these “organizational” chapels to first confirm that there are no other available options for the same or lesser prices. (See: Can anyone get a price list for a complete funeral?)
The United Hebrew Community of New York prides itself in knowing that it offers the opportunity, to those they assist, to pay a chapel at least $1,000.00 less then the OU prices for the same “stringently supervised” funeral or for most other organizational funerals being offered to the public.
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