Frequently Asked Questions

We have heard thousands of questions, and chosen to provide you with the answers to some of the more common questions relating to a funeral, a funeral service and funeral homes.

- What is a funeral?
The funeral is a ceremony of proven worth and value for those who mourn. It provides an opportunity for the survivors and others who share in the loss to express their love, respect and grief. It permits facing openly and realistically the crisis that death may present. Through the funeral, the bereaved take that first step towards emotional adjustment to their loss.

- What type of service should I have?
Only you can answer that question. The type of service conducted for the deceased, if not noted in a pre-plan, is decided by the family. The service is usually held at a place of worship or at the funeral home. The service may vary in ritual according to religious denomination or the wishes of the family. The presence of friends at this time is an acknowledgment of friendship and support. A private service is by invitation only where selected relatives and a few close friends attend the funeral service. A memorial service is usually a service without the body present and can vary in ceremony and procedures according to the family's community and religious affiliations.

- Can I personalize my funeral service?
Absolutely, in fact, we recommend it. After all, the funeral is a celebration of life. Funeral directors are happy to discuss all options and ensure your funeral is tailored to your wishes. It may be personalized in many unique ways. Contact us at (415) 333-0161 to explore the possibilities.

- Why should we have a public viewing?
There are many reasons to view the deceased. It is part of many cultural and ethnic traditions, and many grief specialists believe that viewing aids the grief process, by helping the bereaved recognize the reality of death. Viewing is even encouraged for children, as long as it is their desire to do so, and the process is explained well.

- Why do we need an obituary notice?
It is helpful to friends and the community to have an obituary notice published announcing the death and type of service to be held. A notice can be placed in a local newspaper, or on the Internet.

- What do funeral directors do?
Funeral directors are both caregivers and administrators. In their administrative duties, they make the arrangements for transportation of the body, complete all necessary paperwork, and implement the choices made by the family regarding the funeral and final disposition of the body. As caregivers, funeral directors are listeners, advisors and supporters. They have experience assisting the bereaved in coping with death. Funeral directors are trained to answer questions about grief, recognize when a person is having difficulty coping, and recommend sources of professional help. Funeral directors also link survivors with support groups at the funeral home or in the community.

- What should I do if the death occurs in the middle of the night or on the weekend?
We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All you need to do is place a call to us at (415) 333-0161. If you request immediate assistance, one of our professionals will be there within the hour. If the family wishes to spend a short time with the deceased to say good bye, it's acceptable. Then they will come when your time is right.

- What should I do if a death occurs while away from home?
Your funeral director can assist you if a death occurs anywhere on the globe. Contact your hometown funeral director of choice immediately. They will assume responsibility and coordinate the arrangements for the return of the deceased person to their community. They may engage the services of a funeral director in the place of death who will act as their agent.

- What is the purpose of embalming?
Embalming sanitizes and preserves the body, retards the decomposition process, and enhances the appearance of a body disfigured by traumatic death or illness. It makes it possible to lengthen the time between death and the final disposition, thus allowing family members time to arrange and participate in the type of service most comforting to them. Embalming the body enables mourners to view the deceased if they wish. The emotional benefits of viewing the deceased are enormous, particularly to those having difficulty dealing with the death.

- Is embalming mandatory by law?
No. But, certain factors of time, health and possible legal requirements might make embalming either appropriate or necessary. Please note that embalming may be required if the deceased is being transported by air to another country where local laws need be observed.

- Is cremation a substitute for a funeral?
No, cremation is an alternative to earth burial or entombment for the body's final disposition and often follows a traditional funeral service. We can assist you with the necessary information for a funeral with a cremation following or a memorial service.

- Can I have a visitation period and a funeral service if cremation is chosen?
Yes. Cremation does not preclude having a visitation period and a funeral service. Cremation is simply one option for final disposition of the body.

- Is cremation as a means of disposition increasing?
Yes, but not dramatically.

- How much does a funeral cost?
Funerals can cost as little or as much as your budget or your desires dictate. We offer very modest services to very elaborate services. We are proud to offer a wide variety of choices when it comes to  products such as caskets, cremation containers, urns and other memorial products. We offer our most commonly selected services in several convenient per-determined packages or are happy to customize our services to your needs or wishes of your family or the deceased. Please give us a call so we can better understand your needs to give you the most accurate cost information.

- Has this cost increased significantly?
Funeral costs have increased no faster than the consumer price index for other consumer items.

- Why are funerals so expensive?
In some respects, funerals are a lot like weddings or birthday celebrations. The type and cost will vary according to the tastes and budget of the consumer. Not only that, a funeral home is a 24-hour, labor-intensive business, with extensive facilities (viewing rooms, chapels, limousines, hearses, etc.), these expenses must be factored into the cost of a funeral. Moreover, the cost of a funeral includes not only merchandise, like caskets, but the services of a funeral director in making arrangements; filing appropriate forms; dealing with doctors, ministers, florists, newspapers and others; and seeing to all the necessary details. Contrary to popular belief, funeral homes are largely family-owned with a modest profit margin.

- Why do I need copies of the death certificate?
Death certificates may be required to process the legal paperwork involving the estate of the deceased. Some examples for their use are the processing of life insurance policies, bank accounts, real property, stocks and bonds, will or living trust and insured loans

- Who obtains the certified copies of the death certificate?
The county where the death occurred issues the certified copies of the death certificate. The number of certified copies you require may be ordered during the arrangement conference. Once the certified copies are received (usually within two weeks), you will be contacted and the documents will be held at our office for you to pick up. If you wish to re-order certified copies of a death certificate, and if the county is San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda, Marin, Napa, Solano, Contra Costa or Sonoma counties, VMP & Co. will take your order , process it for you, pick up the copies and hold them for you to pick up. A fee equal to that charged by the respective county will be charged to you. If the death was outside of these counties, we will provide you with an application and an envelope addressed to the Vital Statistics Office of the specific county. After you submit it, the county where the death occurred processes the application, and sends the certificates to you. The cost, per death certificate, tends to fluctuate per County each year. Please confirm the price with the respective Board of Health or with our staff.

- What does Social Security pay towards a funeral service?
Social Security provides a one-time death benefit of $255 to eligible survivors. General benefits must be determined individually based upon work contribution history of the deceased and eligibility of their survivors. These can be assessed by calling the Social Security Administration at (800) 772-1213, Monday through Friday, from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.