Common Questions

We have provided a list of answers to questions we frequently receive regarding our services and other aspects related to funerals. If you do not see a question or the answer to your question here, feel free to contact us. We will be happy to give you more information and clarify any of your concerns.


What is a funeral?

A funeral is a ceremony for celebrating, honoring, and remembering the life of a person who has passed away. While specific customs, traditions, and practices differ across different cultures and religions, all funerals serve the key purpose of giving the bereaved a special time and place to say goodbye and find comfort and healing in one another and they begin their grief journey and a healthy new beginning.

Why are funerals so expensive?

When compared to other major life events, such as births and weddings, funerals are not very expensive. A wedding can cost nearly three times as much; however, because it is a happy event, wedding costs are rarely criticized. Also, unlike being afforded several weeks or months for a wedding, planning for a funeral is often compressed into three to five days.

A funeral home is a 24-hour, 365 days a year (including holidays), labor-intensive business. It also has extensive expenses, such as viewing rooms, chapels, hearses, specialized equipment, that must be factored into the cost of operating.

Additionally, the cost of a funeral includes not only the merchandise, such as caskets, urn and printing, but also the services of a licensed funeral director in making arrangements, filing of forms, working with physicians, clergy, musicians, florists, newspapers, and others; layout of printing; editing of life-tribute video; and seeing all other necessary details are arranged. Funeral directors look upon our profession as a ministry, however, it is also a business. As in any business, funeral homes must make a modest profit in order to be around to continue serving families in the future.

What do funeral directors do?

A funeral director:

  • Is on-call to transfer a deceased from their place of death to the funeral home establishment (at any time of day/night, 365 days a year, including holidays).
  • Notifies proper authorities, family and/or relatives.
  • Obtains vital statistics and records death certificates in the state of death.
  • Obtains death certificates and provides copies to insurance companies for processing.
  • Works with agencies, such as SSA, to ensure necessary forms are received for benefits.
  • Assists the family with composing a life history and places notice in desired newspaper and other media.
  • Bathes, sanitizes, embalms and dress the deceased.
  • Prepares the body for viewing.
  • Assists the family with making funeral arrangements.
  • Schedules the opening and closing of grave with the cemetery sexton, if burial is to take place.
  • Creates memorial folders and DVD tributes.
  • Coordinates with clergy, musicians, luncheon groups, food caterer, custodial care, casket/urn bearers, and others, to ensure all details are taken care of for the ceremony.
  • Arranges police escorts to lead transportation to the cemetery from place of ceremony.
  • Transfers flowers and memorabilia from visitation over to place of ceremony. Also arranges display of flowers and memorabilia. Lastly, delivers flowers throughout the community as a service to the family.
  • Orders final engraving on memorial headstones or benches.
  • Ensures all expenses, such as honorariums, flowers, food bills, cemetery expenses, etc, are paid for to appropriate people and vendors on behalf of the family.
  • Provides aftercare programs to the bereaved.
  • Provides pre-planning care to families.
  • Offers public speaking and outreach about death care to various organizations.
Why have a viewing?

A viewing—also known as “visitation,” a “wake,” or “calling hours”—can involve an open or closed casket, and is seen as a vital element of the grieving process. Having their loved one present often helps family and friends to accept the reality of their loss, especially for those who may not have seen him/her in a while. The opportunity to come to terms with the death and say a final farewell is an important step in the grief journey and a healthy new beginning.

What is the purpose of embalming?

Embalming is a process used to sanitize and temporarily preserve the body of a person who has passed away. It can also enhance the appearance of a person that has suffered damage from an illness or accident. By preserving the body through embalming, funeral professionals are able to give you and your family time to make personalized and meaningful arrangements, including obviously a viewing if desired.

Is embalming required by law?

Embalming, except in certain cases, is not required by law. Embalming may be necessary, however, if you select certain funeral arrangements, such as a funeral with viewing. If you do not want embalming, you usually have the right to choose an arrangement that does not require you to incur a cost, such as a direct cremation or immediate burial. If you would like more information regarding the law that addresses embalming, please refer to Minnesota Statute 149A.91 Subdivision 3.

Can I still have viewing and funeral services with cremation?

Yes. In fact, we encourage you to do so. Choosing cremation only indicates how you would like to care for your loved one after the service and does not exclude you from celebrating and honoring their life with their body present. Cremation is simply the form of final disposition, or what is to be done with their body after the ceremony.

Can we have a viewing if my loved one has donated organs or had an autopsy?

Yes. Following an autopsy and/or organ and tissue procurement, our funeral professionals will be able to care for your loved one's body, such that will still allow you, family and other friends an opportunity to incorporate the element of having their body present for viewing.

What is the flame-based cremation process?

We own and operate our own flame-based crematory - Minnesota River Valley Service. Flame-based cremation occurs through a direct flame putting an intense heat heat (usually between 1400 - 1800 degrees F) on the body in a brick retort. The process typically takes two to four hours. Following a period of cooling, the and remaining bone fragments and bone ash are removed from the retort. Larger bone fragments are then reduced down to ash and the remains cremains are returned by our staff to the loved one's family.

What is the water-based (alkaline-hydrolysis) cremation process?

We partner with AquaGreen Cremation to offer families we serve in Southwest Minnesota a gentle, eco-friendly alternative to flame-based cremation.

Water-based cremation is a relatively new form of disposition, but has been used in Minnesota by the Mayo Clinic since 2006. The process occurs through the combination of gentle water flow, temperature, pressure and alkalinity around the body which is encapsulated in a stainless-steel vessel. The hydro-cycle typically takes six to eight hours. Following a period of drying, the remaining bone fragments and bone ash are removed from the vessel. Larger bone fragments are then reduced down to ash and the remains cremains are returned by our staff to the loved one's family.

The process is essentially an accelerated version of what takes place in natural decomposition. It is more eco-friendly than flame-based cremation and leaves behind a very small carbon footprint as it uses less energy and has zero emissions of greenhouse gases.

Where can I scatter my loved one's cremated remains? Are there any restrictions?

In general, the government does not regulate the scattering ashes. The truth is that as our body was created from the earth, it is meant to return to the earth. Our cremains are actually phosphorous rich and thus, good for the earth's soil. Make sure you check with your local regulations beforehand, but most locations are usually okay as long as you are considerate and dispose of the container properly. If you wish to scatter the ashes on private land, it obviously is good practice to consult the landowner first.

How can I afford a funeral if I have no money?

If a family lacks the financial means for caring for their loved one's body, they still may be eligible to receive assistance for burying or cremating their loved one.

In our area of Southwest Minnesota our tax-payor dollars support Southwest Health and Human Services (SWHHS) burial program. If financial assistance for burial may be needed, PRIOR to funeral arrangements, a family may apply and be approved for county burial assistance.

In the Summer of 2017, Southwest Health and Human Services (SWHHS) adopted new policy, in order to be prudent to the tax-payors of the counties they serve. The full policy may be obtained by contacting their office.<

In short, their policy, if a family is approved, will cover, (Monday - Friday only):

  • Traditional Immediate Burial (within 72 hours from death*)
    • Removal from place of death and transfer to funeral home
    • Dressing and casket of human remains
    • Minimum casket provided
    • Minimum outer-burial container, if required
    • Transfer of human remains to cemetery
    • Graveside interment of human remains
    • Purchase of one grave plot, if needed
    • Opening and closing of grave plot at cemetery

*Embalming is not covered, thus burial is required to take place within 72 hours, per MN Statute 149A, Subd 3.

  • Direct Cremation
    • Removal from place of death and transfer to funeral home
    • Minimum container required for cremation
    • Minimum urn
    • Transfer to crematory
    • Cremation process fee

*The state of Minnesota recognizes cremation as final disposition, thus, any purchase of cemetery plot or niche comes at the next-of-kin's expense.

**Additionally, if any other services or expenses are incurred, they are to be paid for by the deceased's next-of-kin. Examples may included, but are not limited to: death certificates, embalming, visitation ceremony, funeral ceremony, honorariums, print material, DVD tribute, headstone, final date engraving, luncheon expenses, flower expenses, and any other item deemed unnecessary by SWHHS for the minimum disposition of a dead human body.

What do I do when a death occurs while out of town or away from home?

It is important that you contact the local medical authorities first (as well as the police, if appropriate). However it is then very important to contact our funeral home as soon as you are able. We will work with you, law enforcement or hospital staff to make the necessary arrangements to get your loved one back home safely, quickly, and easily as possible. Calling us will also help you to avoid excess service expenses/fees.

Can I personalize my service?

Absolutely! Our caring staff is held to a high standard and has participated in the Wolfelt experience. We will educate you and encourage that the ceremony you create for your loved one is very personal to you, your family and the life well-lived of your loved one. Our belief is that the more detail and effort that a grieving family puts into the ceremony, the more they will get out of the experience as the move forward through their grief journey. We will be very much honored to work with you in creating that meaningful ceremony!

What should I say when I run into the bereaved in public?

What you may say depends upon whether or not you have already had contact with the bereaved. If you have already offered your condolences, or attended the visitation or service, simply greet the bereaved warmly and express an interest in their well-being. If this is your first meeting since the death and you are in a public setting, it is often kinder not to bring up the death directly. Instead, say something like, “I understand these must be difficult days for you,” and perhaps ask about when might be a good time to visit, or suggest that you meet for lunch.

What can I do to help later?

The grieving process certainly does not end with the funeral, and it will take time for the bereaved to heal. The family will need your support for many months to come, so make sure to check in on a regular basis. Drop a note, make a phone call, and continue to invite them when you make social plans; they will let you know if and when they are ready to participate. It is also very important and meaningful if you reach out to the family on special occasions, like birthdays or anniversaries, especially during the first year following their loss.

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