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Commonly Asked Questions

Cremation Questions

Is embalming necessary for cremation?

Embalming is not required by Pennsylvania law prior to cremation. Pennsylvania law mandates that a body be refrigerated or embalmed after the deceased has been dead 24 hours. With the use of refrigeration embalming is not required, and the unnecessary expense of embalming is alleviated.

Can the body be viewed without embalming?

Most definitely. Although some funeral homes may lead you to believe that embalming is necessary if you want to view your loved one this is not correct. Embalming is only necessary if you are going to have a public viewing after the deceased has been dead for 24 hours. Our crematory was designed with this in mind, and a private viewing room in a chapel type setting is always available to accommodate your wishes and provide you with closure that is so often desired.

Do all funeral homes have refrigeration units?

Over 95% of funeral homes in Pennsylvania do not own or have access to refrigeration. This is a factor to keep in mind when considering cremation, especially if you want the flexibility of a private family viewing at your convenience and not within the 24 hour time frame mandated by law. We have the only on-site refrigeration in this area, assuring you that unnecessary charges such as embalming will not be incurred.

Is a casket required?

A casket is not required for cremation, nor is a casket required when choosing a private family viewing at our facility. We provide all families choosing this option with a premium alternative container constructed of pressboard, with the interior resembling that of a casket.

Is a family member permitted to witness the cremation process?

Absolutely. Our facility was designed with the family in mind. We have the only facility in this area that is conducive to accommodating one or several family members that would want to be present for all or any part of the cremation process.

Do you cremate anything other than humans in your cremation unit?

ABSOLUTELY NOT!! Although many funeral homes use a crematory that cremates animals in the same cremation chamber, use the same chamber for incinerating biohazardous waste, or have bulk contracts with veterinary clinics and humane societies WE DO NOT. The integrity of our cremation chamber is assured by a one-piece hearth design like no other in our area. In other words, we have the only cremation unit with a solid hearth, let alone a solid hearth unit that is only used for humans. We do provide pet cremation services, but have a separate facility and cremation unit for pets.

What is the significance of a solid hearth cremation chamber?

A solid hearth (solid floor) cremation chamber is exactly what it states, solid. Constructed of 8 inches of solid concrete, a solid floor hearth assures a surface with no crevices or nooks and crannies in which cremated remains may be lost or co-mingled.

Older machines, or machines built to a lesser standard than ours, have a brick hearth (or floor) which when in perfect condition will naturally have cracks where the bricks line up or abut. In time, the cracks between the bricks become larger, deeper, and wider from the extreme heating and cooling process the hearth is subjected to on a daily basis. What this means to you is that there is no way of preventing co-mingling of remains, let alone any safeguarded way to ensure the return of 100% of your loved one’s cremated remains. This is a consideration I believe to be very important when selecting a crematory. After all, which portion of your loved one wouldn’t you want returned.

How can I be certain that 100% of my loved ones remains are returned to me?

First, and foremost, once an individual enters our care they do not leave it. The complete process is overseen from beginning to end by a licensed funeral director, who is part of our highly trained staff. From the minute your loved one enters our facility there will be a stainless steel ID tag along with an ID bracelet that will be used to maintain identity throughout the cremation process. We can assure you that we are giving you the remains of your loved one, because we handled the complete process from transportation from place of death, throughout the complete cremation process, to delivery to next of kin, or a cemetery for final disposition. Secondly, we have a cremation unit that is engineered with state of the art technology, designed to facilitate 100% retrieval of cremated remains. Also, we implement a process called” hot vacing” that ensures all microscopic and minute particles are retrieved and contained in a vacuum filter , that will be placed with the rest of the remains to be processed. Thus, after each use our cremation chamber doesn’t contain the smallest of microscopic particles and is completely ready for future use.

How long does the cremation process take?

The complete cremation process takes approximately 2-3 hours, depending upon the size of the body and the temperature retained in the cremation chamber from prior use. Under normal circumstances, given an average size individual, most cremations average 2 hours.

What laws if any govern cremation?

Here is somewhat of a time line as to what needs to happen to be granted permission to cremate, as well as laws and regulations that must be adhered to for cremation to take place. In Pennsylvania every cremation has to be referred to the county coroner and a mandatory 24 hour waiting period is required by law. The reason for this is that once a body is cremated there is no longer any forensic evidence. To receive permission from the coroner a signed, certified copy of the death certificate along with a signed cremation authorization from the next of kin stating that this is in fact their wish is required. Cremation is an irreversible process, and to protect everyone’s interests clear intentions must be stated and documented. Once all of this procedure is completed a cremation permit is issued by a local registrar, the coroner’s fee is paid, and the coroner’s authorization is faxed to the crematory. Then and only then can the cremation process take place.

What are the laws regarding scattering remains?

Currently there are no laws in Pennsylvania restricting the scattering of remains. More so than anything common sense needs to be administered when selecting this option as final disposition. Frequently used scattering sites would include a favorite fishing hole, frequented golf course, or special flower garden in the backyard, which would all be suitable locations with proper permission. Problems arise when common sense isn’t so common and a sadly misguided attempt to scatter occurs, e.g. trying to scatter Dad on the 50 yard line of Heinz field during the playoffs.

What options are available when considering the final disposition of remains?

There are countless options available when considering the final disposition of remains. Some of the more common options would be burial in a local cemetery, entombment in a cremation niche, scattering the remains in a special place, placing the remains in an urn at home, memorialization by placing a small portion of remains in specialized jewelry, or any combination of the above mentioned acts.

I’m Catholic, can I be cremated?

The Catholic Church has relaxed their view on cremation tremendously in the last several years. Twenty years ago it would have been unheard of to have mass of Christian burial in a Catholic church, with an urn and cremated remains present, but today it is commonplace. If you have concerns discuss them with your priest, and I think you will find that they are comfortable with cremation, providing that the remains are buried appropriately.

Can I have a memorial service at your funeral home?

Service options are completely up to you. We have spacious facilities that are handicap accessible, and ample parking to accommodate the largest of families comfortably.

We do not belong to a church; can I still have a memorial service?

Most certainly. Whether or not you belong to a church, or have any religious affiliation at all, has no bearing on the option of having a memorial service. We can provide the facilities and provide the necessary clergy to officiate the service from a denomination of your choosing. A memorial service is an important part of the grieving process, and has proven essential in helping to provide closure for grieving friends and family.

How many certified copies of the death certificate will I need?

Certified copies of the death certificate are used for anything that requires legal proof of death. Property title transfers, bank accounts, mutual funds, vehicle title changes, and insurance policies just to name a few. One thing to keep in mind is that we provide 4 free copies to everyone, and if you are a veteran you will receive 10 free copies for your veteran’s service. Certified copies can not be duplicated and come with a raised seal, so this is definitely a situation where you are better to err on the side of caution and purchase a few extra to avoid frustration on down the road.

How do I obtain death certificates and what do they cost?

We take care of all necessary paperwork surrounding the procurement and filing of the death certificate. In Pennsylvania certified copies cost $6.00 each locally during the month the deceased died. The following month they are sent to the state office in New Castle, the price only increases to $9.00 each, but certificates take 2-4 weeks to obtain.

Who notifies Social Security, will I need a death certificate for them?

The day following the date of death, we file a funeral director’s affidavit with the Social Security Administration notifying them that a death has occurred. Because we do this in a timely fashion with a standardized form, you will not need a certified copy of the death certificate for social security.

What Social Security benefits will I receive?

A lump sum death benefit of $255. is paid to a surviving spouse, a dependent child, or both. Approximately 1-2 weeks following death we recommend contacting the local social security administration to arrange a consultation, if necessary to discuss any additional benefits. If an additional consultation is required things to take along that will facilitate receiving Social Security benefits would be; marriage license, children’s birth certificates ( if applicable), driver’s license or proof of widow’s (age if 62 or older), social security number, total wages paid on W-2 form or schedule “C” for preceding year, and a death certificate.

I want to be cremated, but my family does not want to honor my wishes. Is there a legally binding way for you to carry out and honor my wishes?

This is a delicate situation that we normally try to find a happy medium where everyone’s wishes can be accommodated. No matter how much we strive to do this in some instances, it can not be accomplished. If an individual is adamant that they definitely want cremation with or without any services, rites, or rituals on a pre need basis their wishes can be accommodated. Once there is a binding contract in place, we are obligated to carry out your wishes as stated. This is a decision that you want to consider carefully, because the funeral process is for the living and the needs of those left behind should be taken into consideration.