Ask Anthony

Q&As with Anthony J. Guarino are published each week in The Yorktown News. To submit a question of your own, contact us at YFH945@gmail.com.

Q: Okay, I’m ready to preplan my funeral. Where do I begin?

A: Set up an appointment with your local funeral director when you want to begin the preplanning process. He or she will guide you through all the steps. You can also visit our website for a checklist and an interactive form to help you get started.

Q: How can I motivate myself to preplan my funeral? I’d rather not think about it!

A: One of the best motivators is to think of how relieved your loved ones will be to know what your wishes were. They will also be grateful to have so many of the details taken care of at a time when they need as much support as possible.

Q: How can I help the executor of my estate ahead of time?

A: First, make your will and financial records as clear and detailed as possible. Then let your children and other heirs know how you plan to divide your belongings among them. Even consider attaching labels to items. This will save your executor many hours of work and negotiation.

Q: Who should I choose as the executor of my estate?

A: Pick someone who is trustworthy, dedicated and willing to take on this time-consuming role. Legal or financial training is a plus. If you are not naming your spouse, be sure he or she feels comfortable with your choice. Finally, name one or more backups for the role.

Q: What does an executor of an estate do?

A: The executor is in charge of maintaining the deceased person’s property until all debts and taxes have been paid. After that, he or she sees that the remaining estate goes to the correct people. The position is one of great responsibility.

Q: I heard that I shouldn’t keep my funeral planning documents in a safety deposit box. Why not?

A: Safety deposit boxes are usually opened during the estate settlement process, which takes place long after the funeral. Leave your will and other arrangements with a family member or executor instead.

Q: Will it be harmful to my children if they see me grieving?

A: No. Even if your own tears make them feel sad temporarily, they will learn from your example that it is normal and healthy to express their own feelings of grief and sadness.

Q: Should I let my child attend a funeral service?

A: Some children remember the hurt of being excluded from a service, and some remember being forced to attend. Tell the child as much as you can about what will happen at the service and who will be there so they can decide whether or not they want to go.

Q: How do I tell my child about a family member’s death?

A: Avoid using euphemisms such as “went away” or “was lost.” Prevent confusion by saying simply that the family member died. Reassure the child that they will be loved and cared for, and understand that individual children will grieve in different ways.

Q: What if my relatives live too far away to attend the memorial service?

A: If you have family members who can’t make the trip because of distance, poor health, or any other reason, we can webcast the service live over the internet, archive it for delayed viewing or download it to a DVD. This way, everyone can view the service.

Q: Do you offer keepsakes embossed with the family member’s fingerprint?

A: Yes. In fact, we always make a fingerprint impression so the family can take some time to decide if they would like a keepsake. Fingerprints can be used to personalize pendants, charms, rings, lapel pins and more.

Q: How can I remember my family member’s birthday?

A: One tradition that is popular with many families is to gather at the family member’s favorite restaurant on their birthday each year. You may also choose to visit a favorite location, take part in an activity they enjoyed, or spend a few hours volunteering for a cause meaningful to them.

Q: What is complicated grief?

A: The pain of normal grief will eventually fade in intensity, and life will have meaning and happiness again. With complicated grief, the pain remains as intense or gets worse long past the average duration of mourning, even to the point that the bereaved can no longer function. Please seek help if this is happening to you or a loved one.

Q: How long will my grief last?

A: You may find that you will always miss your family member, and there is no set time limit for when you are “supposed” to feel better. However, the most intense feelings of grief usually last about six to eight weeks, and the entire process may take between one and four years. If you are suffering beyond that, please seek help.

Q: How will the death of my parent affect the rest of my family?

A: Many changes may occur. Your surviving parent will grieve and may start to rely on other family members in a new way. Some family members may want more closeness, and others may want more distance. Everyone will need the time to mourn in their own way.

Q: What do I say in a sympathy thank you note?

A: A simple message along the lines of, “Thank you for your sympathy and kindness,” or “Thank you for your support during this difficult time” will be appropriate. If the individual gave flowers, made a donation or helped in some other way, you may mention that as well.

Q: Can you recommend restaurants for my out-of-town guests who will be attending the funeral?

A: Download the Community Resource Guide from our website, which lists local florists, hotels, restaurants, baby sitters, travel information and more. You can use it for your own reference, as well as email copies ahead of time to your guests.

 Q: How much time is there to arrange a funeral after a death occurs?

A: Some religions require a funeral to take place as soon as possible. Otherwise, it depends on the needs and wishes of the family, with most funerals taking place about a week after the time of death.

Q: How do I announce my family member’s death on social media?

A: First tell the closest family members and friends individually. When you post your announcement, you may choose to include the date of death, a few personal words, and the date and time of any public service (or note that a small private service will be held for family only).

Q: Do you offer any plans for members of service and their families?

A: We offer fire department, police and EMS members, as well as their eligible family members, a 10% courtesy discount on all funeral service charges as our way of thanking them for their community service. Eligible family members include retirees, spouses, domestic partners, parents, grandparents, great grandparents, children and grandchildren.

Q: What should we do with the flowers from the funeral?

A: If you wish to preserve the flowers, you can take photographs of the arrangements and share them online or put them in a scrapbook. You may press some of the flowers and put them in frames or bookmarks. We even offer a service where the petals are turned into multicolored beads and made into keepsake jewelry. The choice is yours.

Q: How can I help a bereaved friend after the funeral is over?

A: Sometimes after a loss, we can feel that the world is moving on without us. To help the bereaved, set up a reminder to yourself to regularly contact them every few weeks to see if they need help with chores, a dinner invitation, or just a friendly call. Your ongoing presence can help them feel connected again.

Q: What should I say to a friend who recently lost someone?

A: Offer an expression of sympathy. Sometimes the simplest words, such as, “I’m sorry for your loss,” work best. Don’t try to downplay or explain their loss, even if you mean well by it. Allow them to bring up any religious beliefs on their own. Let them know you will be available for them in the months to come.

Q: What should I write in a funeral guest book?

A: A guest book helps the bereaved remember everyone who attended the funeral when they send out thank you cards later. For this reason, you should limit your entry to your name and address, with possibly a word or two stating your connection to the deceased. More can be said in a separate condolence letter, if you wish.

Q: What should I wear when attending a funeral?

A: If no specific dress code is given, you may choose conservative attire that you feel comfortable in. Opt for dark or muted colors, and avoid anything flashy or too casual.

Q: I am attending a funeral for the first time. What basic etiquette should I follow?

A: Join the receiving line so you can greet each member of the deceased’s family. Offer simple condolences and listen attentively when the bereaved want to speak. You may briefly describe how you know the deceased if the loved one doesn’t know you. Your presence and caring will mean the most of all.

Q: My loved one left no preplanning arrangements. How can I best make choices on her behalf?

A: Ultimately, funerals are for the living. It can help the bereaved in their mourning process to memorialize the deceased, remember the life they lived and see how they affected other people’s lives as well. If you don’t know what your loved one would have wanted, do what you think is best.

Q: How does Medicaid affect my funeral planning?

A: Money paid into a funeral trust is usually exempt from the assets allowed to qualify for Medicaid-covered nursing home care. To satisfy Medicaid requirements, you can set up an irrevocable trust agreement where those funds can only be used to pay for the funeral. Any money left in the fund after funeral expenses are paid will go to Medicaid. Consult an eldercare attorney for more details.

Q: What if I prepay my funeral, but need the money back for another purpose?

A: If you suspect you may want the money back, you can keep the funds in a revocable trust, which allows you to withdraw funds later with interest. This is in contrast to an irrevocable trust, where the money can only be used for the funeral. Ask your funeral director ahead of time if they charge any fees for withdrawing funds.

Q: How can I prepay my funeral expenses if costs increase in general over time?

A: The funds go into an interest bearing trust account, which lets us guarantee that the interest will take care of the increase in cost. Ten years from now, even though our charges will go up, whatever money is in the account will cover the same funeral home expenses as when it was deposited.

Q: If I prepay my funeral expenses, where is the money kept?

A: Our funeral home sets up trust funds as a public service we extend to our families. We don’t receive any funds until it’s time to perform the service. Funds are set up in an interest-bearing account and are FDIC insured.

Q: What should I do if a death occurs at night or on the weekend?

A: We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Just place a call to us at our number below, and one of our professionals will be there within the hour. If you want to spend a short time with the deceased to say goodbye, we will come when your time is right.

Q: How can I support myself during my time of loss when I also have many events to attend?

A: Plan for your support ahead of time. If you know an especially trying time is coming up, arrange to talk with someone supportive before and after. Keep at hand a list of places you can go or calming activities you can take part in when you feel that you need to regenerate.

Q: During a time of mourning, is it okay to say no to holiday activities if I don’t feel up to them?

A: It’s okay to say no if that is what’s healing for you. Just take care that a recuperative solitude does not turn into isolation. Use the time to tend to yourself.  When you feel able, seek out what will help you feel better.

Q: How can I adapt my holiday traditions to celebrate the life of my loved one?  

A: Some of the many ways to consider include offering a toast in their honor before dinner, paying a visit to their favorite spot in town, or donating an act of charity in their name. Seek the support of others as you try new ways to keep your loved one’s memory alive.

Q: Will you be hosting any memorial service for families in this area?  

A: On Saturday, December 5, 2015, Yorktown Funeral Home in Shrub Oak will hold its Fifth Annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony, starting at 5:00 pm. Family members and friends who wish to remember loved ones are invited to gather and to place an ornament on the tree. Please RSVP at (914) 962-0700 or YFH945@gmail.com.

Q: The holidays are difficult since I lost my loved one. What can I do?  

A: Speaking about your loved one and sharing remembrances can often help alleviate some of the pain of the season. Let your family know that you would like your loved one remembered. If you want, take part in a memorial or remembrance service at your local place of worship or family funeral home. Others at these services will understand what you are going through.

Q:  My family will be here for the holidays. Can I talk to them about my funeral preferences since we will all be in one place?  

A:  Holidays are a time to focus on how much our family means to us, and—although it may seem unusual—setting aside a time to have a positive and good-humored talk about your preferences can be the caring thing to do. When the time comes, they will be glad to know what your preferences were.

Q:  Why are more people choosing individualized funerals? 

A: Many families now want funerals to celebrate the lives of their loved ones. Through the details of the service, families can remember the unique character, personality and interests of the loved one. Each funeral can be different, just as each individual is different, no matter whether the family opts for a service that is traditional, contemporary or a blend of both.

Q:  A death has occurred while we were traveling far from home. What do we do now?

A:  No matter where you are, even if you are traveling abroad, your funeral director will assist you. Contact them immediately, and they will take care of all the details. They may contact a funeral director at the location where you are who will act on their behalf. All care will be taken to help you when you are away from home.

Q:  What should I do if I want to preplan my funeral, but I can’t prepay the whole service now?

A:  Although many people who preplan  set aside some funds for the service, this is not at all a requirement. Preplanning involves making choices about the details of your service so your loved ones will have peace of mind later.   This plan can be made with the help of a funeral director, but it can also be as simple as a paragraph written out and shared with your family.

Q:  What are the emotional benefits of pre-planning?

A:  Thinking about your own funeral leaves most people feeling a little uneasy, but more adults are finding that preplanning a funeral offers great emotional and even financial security for them and their families. With preplanning, families find comfort in knowing that the funeral reflects what their loved one wanted. It also gives them peace of mind to not have to make important decisions at a stressful time.

Q: When is the best time to pre-plan a funeral?

A: Taking care of this important need well in advance is not only smart financially, it spares relatives and friends the stress of having to make decisions about arrangements at a time of great sadness and emotional distress.