Low cost funerals help families' financial survival

2011-06-18T00:40:00Z 2011-06-18T09:41:39Z Low cost funerals help families' financial survivalGenelle Pugmire - Daily Herald Daily Herald
June 18, 2011 12:40 am  • 

While most people are concerned about cost of living increases these days, there are numerous families who have to deal with the growing cost of dying.

To help concerned relatives give loved ones a proper memorial for less, new low-cost, low overhead funeral homes are popping up throughout Utah County. Scott Walker and his son run the The Tribute Center in Provo, also known as the Walker Mortuary, which has started offering a variety of price ranges and choices when it comes to funeral packages.

Walker has observed a change in what people want and what they can afford.

"The younger generation wants something different than the baby boomers. Young people are opting for cremation with less pomp and circumstance," he said.

According to Walker, most folks in this area are still wanting traditional types of services with a viewing and all the care that comes with it. However, costs for individualized services, such as DVDs, catering, upscale caskets and other services can take families to the point of financial ruin.

A typical funeral in this area may cost approximately $8,000. Add the cost of the cemetery plot and vault, and your costs can go up to $10,000. Many funerals with all the extras including multiple limousines and fancy programs can take costs even higher.

Places like the Tribute Center are keeping traditional funerals at around $4,000, and some are as low as $2,500 when families choose to do some things on their own. For instance, they print their own programs and they use their own cars instead of limousines. To save costs, families may choose to have a graveyard service without a viewing so they don't have to pay the cost for embalming, which is approximately $800.

Lance Nelson has worked with traditional mortuaries for more than a decade. He saw a great need for an alternative choice in funeral planning. This week he opened Legacy Funerals and Cremations in Spanish Fork. Legacy is in a smaller office-type setting, but still offers a viewing room and on-site embalming and preparation.

"Funeral homes are sitting empty, so why pay for a big facility?" Nelson said. "I'm more modern with more personalization."

Some funerals have a distinctly personal touch. Nelson said he remembers a man who was an avid golfer. Instead of having the traditional church or mortuary funeral, the family opted to have services at the golf course. He was a longtime member of the clubhouse and the arrangements seemed appropriate and comforting.

Matt Davis opened Utah Valley Mortuary in Pleasant Grove three months ago, and said he feels like his industry is more than just funeral planners.

"We're a hospitality industry. It's about service and people," Davis said. Davis is from the southern part of the U.S. He said that in the South it is more common for funeral directors to come to people's homes to make funeral preparations rather then families coming to the mortuary.

Davis would like to be known for a more high-end feel with none of the high costs. One of the things he offers, as does Legacy, is the option to have the funeral broadcast live on the Internet. It helps family members who can't get to the funeral be able to participate.

Terry Eckersell, funeral director and director of operations at Serenicare in Orem said, "You don't have to have an established funeral home with caskets on display to fit the needs of the public."

In trying to accommodate a family's options and financial concerns, all of the funeral directors say they have noticed a substantial increase in the number of cremations over the past few years. In this area the numbers have risen 20 percent. Back East, nearly 90 percent of the deceased are cremated. Members of churches such as the Catholic Church or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have felt it important to have a burial, but that is changing.

"People are learning that there's not a specific booklet that says you are not to cremate," Nelson said.

Cremation costs approximately $1,000. The Tribute Center houses the only crematorium between Lehi and St. George. "We'll see cremation rates up 50 percent in the next 10 years," Scott Walker said.

"People want memorializing to be what they want it to be," Scott Walker said. "Nationwide funeral homes are more and more becoming event planners."

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