Frequent Questions & Answers

Burial

 

For most of human history, what we now call natural burial was just called “burial.” A simple, shallow hole dug into the earth, and the shrouded dead body placed into the hole.

However, in many modernized areas of the world, cemeteries require the body be placed in a metal or wooden casket, then placed in a concrete or metal vault. The earth is not coming anywhere near the dead body.

In addition:

“American funerals are responsible each year for the felling of 30 million board feet of casket wood (some of which comes from tropical hardwoods), 90,000 tons of steel, 1.6 million tons of concrete for burial vaults, and 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid. Even cremation is an environmental horror story, with the incineration process emitting many a noxious substance, including dioxin, hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide, and climate-changing carbon dioxide.” via Just How Bad is Traditional Burial? 

This is why Clarity Funerals works with Joshua Tree Memorial Park to offer green burials to our families.

 

 

 

While we wish there was a green burial ground (that wasn’t cost prohibitive for our families) closer to Los Angeles, Joshua Tree is the closest memorial park that shares our values.

Here is what they offer in a natural burial ground, adjacent to the entrance of Joshua Tree National Park:

1) No traditional embalming. The deceased is placed in refrigeration until burial. Does not inhibit “natures process” of natural decomposition.

2) An ecologically friendly process by removing the necessity for a vault or grave liner and for the use of toxic chemicals (embalming process). No burial vaults or outside containers are used.

3) Only biodegradable materials can be used for casketing and/or shrouding the body – which can include unfinished renewable wood, woven willow and wicker, raw cotton, or linen and even paper.

4) All of the graves are 100% hand dug. The use of heavy equipment, causing harm to the environment, is not permitted.

5) Seeks to reduce carbon emissions by offering an alternative to the cremation process. Conserves natural habitat and resources.

When a death occurs, you will be speaking to both Clarity Funerals and Joshua Tree Memorial Park. Clarity will take care of everything with regards to filing the death certificate, preparing the body, holding a funeral or viewing (if you wish), and transporting the body. Joshua Tree will arrange the selection of a burial plot and the burial process itself. You can reach them at 760-366-9210.

 

 

Burial pricing tends to be a little more complicated, due to the number of variables involved. Burial costs more than cremation, but may be something that aligns with your values, making the additional expense worth it.

For a burial to take place, you’ll need a funeral home (in this case Clarity Funerals) and a cemetery (in this case Joshua Tree Memorial Park). You’ll be working with and speaking to both organizations before burial is complete. In the Southern California area, you are unlikely to do a burial all in (funeral and cemetery) for less than $6,000. Clarity’s charges are the smaller part of the equation – you can find our prices here. Joshua Tree can tell you prices and arrange a site visit when you call them at 760-366-9210.

 

 

We are always happy to have your visit our office in Hollywood. Please make an appointment if you would like to do so.

At the office we will have samples of our biodegradable urns and smaller portion urns, but likely you will find the widest range of options by seeing what we have here.  Caskets are too large to be kept at our location in the middle of Los Angeles, so each one is special ordered for your loved one at the time of death. Here are the most common caskets and shrouds chosen our families.

 

 

In a word, yes.

However, individual cemeteries are allowed to set their own policies.  If a private cemetery wants to require that a family purchase a casket and a vault for the dead body (so it is easier for them to landscape) they are within their rights to do so.

It’s important though, that you don’t let a funeral home or cemetery tell you that buying a casket or vault is the law.  It is not the law.  It is the cemetery’s policy. Any cemetery can choose to offer natural and green burial.

Cremation

 

Cremation is a process that uses heat (via fossil fuels) to create temperatures between 1700°F and 2000°F. During the process, all organic material in the body burns away, leaving behind inorganic bones. After 2 to 2.5 hours in the machine, what is left are these skeletal remains. The bones are swept out of the cremation chamber (also called a retort) and processed down to a fine particulate mixture typically called ashes or cremated remains.

If you’re interested in a more detailed explanation of everything happening during the cremation process, our founder Caitlin explains in video form, available to watch here.

 

 

Absolutely. Clarity Funerals has multiple safeguards and procedures in place to ensure you will never receive incorrect ashes or remains. We understand how important this is for peace of mind, and the process has been designed to have checks at each stage.

This attention to detail starts when bringing someone into our care, when the family, nurse, or hospital signs off that they are releasing the specific person to us. When the person arrives at our facility they are given a distinct ankle tag.

Prior to cremation, all the documentation is reviewed. In addition, a metal disk with a unique ID matching the paperwork is placed in the cremation chamber with the body. The only thing that survives the cremation process are the bones (ashes) and that metal disk. The bones are processed and placed into a bag that is closed with a tie and that metal disk. If it ever became necessary, you could trace this disk back through the paperwork to see all the details of the process, including when it happened, where it happened, and who performed the cremation.

For more specifics on identification procedures, and ensuring the right ashes go to the right person, our founder Caitlin has created a video that can be watched by clicking here.

 

 

The timeframe– from the moment you notify us the death has occurred until the remains are returned to you– can range from a few days to just over a week.

Here are several factors that can impact the time the cremation takes to complete.

  1. The Day of Death–  Clarity aims to shield you from most of the bureaucracy involved in Southern California death, but despite our best efforts it can effect how quickly we are able to file the needed paperwork. If your loved one dies at the end of the week, chances are that the agencies we rely on (the county, state, hospitals, doctors, etc) will be out of office until the following week. Unfortunately, doctors and bureaucrats are just as eager to get out of the office Friday afternoon as the rest of society.
  2. The Doctor’s Signature-  Before we are able to file the death certificate (allowing the cremation or burial to take place) a doctor must sign the death certificate. Doctors have 48 hours from when it lands on their desk to get it done. There are times where a signature takes even longer. The sad truth is, if a doctor doesn’t sign, nothing proceeds.
  3. Your Paperwork- With all the best intentions, some families get overwhelmed with the number of balls they are juggling after a death. It can take days (even weeks) for some families to get their part of the paperwork back to us. Without that important information and signature authorizations, we can’t do anything but wait.
  4. Busy Cremation Schedule- Under most circumstances, once we have all the permits, authorizations, and payment in order, it is only a couple of days before we have the remains back to you. There are times however (cold and flu seasons, the holiday season) when cremation waits are a little bit longer.

 

A note on Rush Cremations: It is possible for us to perform rush cremations (under 72 hours), but an additional fee is involved. These situations take all hands-on-deck to get these permits and paperwork in place. Moving to the top of the list can require herculean efforts when it comes to doctors, permits, and crematory schedules, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Check with us to see if rushing the cremation is something that can be done in your case.

 

 

Every set of ashes is, by default, returned to the family in a sturdy black travel urn. Because the urn is plastic, it isn’t an ideal container from an environmental perspective. However, a large percentage of families want their loved one’s remains mailed or need to take them on a plane to get them home. We made the decision to keep this urn because it is secure, travels well, works as a scattering urn, and most importantly – it is familiar to TSA and customs agents.

Keep in mind that you are 100% able to supply your own urn instead. We love it when families have an heirloom container or something their family member would have loved. Ask us any questions you have about specifics.

Finally, we have an array of environmentally-conscious urns available to purchase. They can be used for ocean or land scattering, or display in your home. See what we offer and prices here.

 

 

Here are the most common requests we receive from families who wish to have items returned after the cremation process.

Gold crown & fillings – Most people don’t realize that while the crown may look like a lot of gold, the reality is that very little metal is used. The dental gold is “destroyed” in the process of cremation, meaning that it is melted and combines with the remains in the process and is unrecoverable. The only way to retain the gold is to extract the teeth prior to cremation. If you or your family wishes to hire a dental professional to perform this removal, we will welcome them into our facility to do so.

More information on the reality of gold fillings found here, in a video by founder Caitlin Doughty.

Hip & Knee Implants– Surgical and medical implants that are done surgically are technically the property of the family. We automatically send them off to a medical metal recycling program so that they are not wasted and can see another life, in whatever form that might be. Occasionally, we get a request to have a hip implant or knee returned, and we can certainly accommodate that.

More information on recycling implants found here, in a video by founder Caitlin Doughty.

Whole or UnProcessed Bones – Some families want entire bones (skull, femur, tibia, etc) returned after a cremation. Unfortunately, the process of the cremation renders the bones so brittle that they don’t come back whole. State regulation requires the bones be processed down to “unidentifiable” remains. If you want the ashes returned without being process down to ash (essentially chunks of bones) we are able to request this with the state for a religious or cultural exemption. Please let us know.

 

 

California law makes it very clear to funeral homes exactly who has the authority to sign off on the cremation or burial process. The person or people whose signatures are required is laid out in Health & Safety Code 7100, and we are not allowed to deviate from this list.

Roughly, the list starts with the Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare (if the decedent had appointed one) and moves down through the spouse, adult children, parents, adult siblings, and so on.  Where it can become complicated is when there is more than one person in a group, ex. more than one child, or multiple siblings.  In that case, the law is clear that the “majority” of signatures is required. Seeking signatures from multiple children and siblings can add time to the process, but it is necessary for the funeral home to keep everything above board.

 

 

The cremated remains of your loved one will be somewhere between 6 – 9 pounds. They will fit in an urn that 4”x10”x6” which is basically the equivalent of a bread box.  So that is the amount you will be working with as you make your decision.

The most popular choices of our families are:

1) Keeping the ashes in an urn at home.

2) Scattering the ashes in the sea or in a special location (we are happy to assist with permits for this choice.)

3) Burying or scattering the ashes in a cemetery.

If you would like to separate a small portion of the ashes to place in a smaller urn or jewelry, please let us know. We can transfer the ashes for you, or we can help you to make the transfer. The cremated remains are not dangerous in any way, and it can be healing for the family to be hands on in the process.

 

 

Absolutely, what you’re talking about is called a witness cremation. If you choose this option we will schedule a time for you (and a small group, if you wish)  to come to our crematory and accompany your loved one as they are placed into the cremation machine. Selected family members or friends can help place the person into the machine and push the button that starts the actual cremation process.

Ask us about other rituals, such as letter-writing, dressing of the body, or music that can be done with a witness cremation. Pricing and more information on the service can be found here.

 

 

We are always happy to have your visit our office in Hollywood. Please make an appointment if you would like to do so.

At the office we will have samples of our biodegradable urns and smaller portion urns, but likely you will find the widest range of options by seeing what we have here.  Caskets are too large to be kept at our location in the middle of Los Angeles, so each one is special ordered for your loved one at the time of death. Here are the most common caskets and shrouds chosen our families.

 

Embalming

 

No, embalming (the chemical preservation of the dead body) is never required by law.

One of the biggest myths about embalming is that the process is necessary to sanitize the body and make it safe for the family to view. You can learn more about the origins of this myth in this video from our founder Caitlin, Are Dead Bodies Dangerous?

At Clarity Funerals, we do what is in our power to avoid embalming and the additional expense it brings families. There are rare instances that we would recommend it. One such instance includes the shipping of your loved one across the country or to another country. Another instance would be if damage to the body is incredibly severe, in which case embalming can make the damage easier to repair, ensuring you can see the person. In both of these case, far less toxic “green” embalming fluids will be used.

 

 

 

Simply put, embalming is the process of temporarily preserving a corpse by draining the blood and fluids from the body and replacing them with a chemical solution. Historically, embalming was done with formalin (formaldehyde) solutions.  Today, we have equally-effective alternatives that are not formaldehyde based.

Many traditional funeral homes will tell you company policy requires embalming for visitation.  We emphatically do not require embalming to have a visitation or a witness cremation at our facility.

To learn more of the details of what exactly happens during the embalming process, please watch the video from our founder Caitlin Doughty, What exactly happens to a body during embalming?.

 

 

 

Home Funerals

 

A home funeral is what used to be called “a funeral,” since all funerals took place in the family home.  Nowadays it means choosing to keep a body at home after death, as opposed to having the body immediately picked up by a funeral home. It is a safe and legal choice for a family to make.

Beyond keeping the body at home, a home funeral can be whatever is comfortable for you and your family.  We’ve seen home funerals that are a family keeping mom at home for several hours in order to sit with her body. We’ve seen home funerals that are elaborate, intimate ceremonies that last three days.  Don’t feel pressure to conform to any idea of a home funeral that isn’t exactly what brings you comfort and feels safe.

This is just one version of a home funeral, but this lovely article or this recent one from Esquire, gives you a sense of what is possible.

 

 

Home funerals are legal everywhere (not just California), although California’s regulations are especially well-designed to give the family power and autonomy to care for their own dead.

If you find your medical professionals are not supportive of this choice, we can help. Hospice nurses, hospital staff, and funeral directors are often not malicious in giving misinformation to families.  They simply don’t know the laws and rights regarding home funerals and keeping a body at home.  Don’t let someone in a position of authority tell you you can’t keep a loved one at home. Contact Clarity and we will help advocate for you with your medical team. 

Here’s a video our founder Caitlin Doughty made to help you know what your rights to keep the body at home or at a funeral home, and also know how to work WITH a funeral home to achieve your goals.

 

 

There is no wrong way to have a home funeral. Ultimately it will reflect what is meaningful to you and your family. However, there are practical issues you’ll want to prepare for like caring for the body. A helpful step-by-step guide to all aspects of planning a home funeral can be found here.

Additional information regarding preparing and dressing a body are outlined here, on the National Home Funeral Alliance website.

A home funeral guide (also known as a doula or midwife) is never required, although if your family is looking for help and advice through the death, hiring a guide might be a good choice for your family. Clarity can recommend one to you.

Please contact Clarity Funerals if you have questions on the process, we’re happy to advise you further.

 

 

A delayed removal is a shorter version of a home funeral. Essentially, it is the family taking as much time as they need before Clarity comes to pick up the person who has died.

When someone dies, it is not an emergency. Please let Clarity Funerals know by phone call, but understand that you determine how long you would like to keep the person with you. When you feel the time is right, call Clarity for a second time and we will arrive to transport the person into our care.

 

Philosophy and Process

 

Every funeral home has their strengths. We won’t be right for everyone (just most people!)

Clarity is the right choice if you’re looking for simple, reasonably priced funeral services that do the least harm possible to the environment. We are locally owned and take our relationships with your family and our community very seriously. We are the funeral home most likely to empower you and your family to make the choices that are best for you, not what’s best for our company.

 

 

 

The short answer is that we keep our overhead costs low. We have a simple office in Hollywood, which means we aren’t passing costs like large mortgages, landscaping, and equipment on to our families.

The longer answer is that making funerals accessible to all families is part of our mission. Cost can be a huge barrier in dying, and it shouldn’t be. Our goal is to make sure everyone is cared for in death, and unreasonable, high prices don’t help us achieve that goal.

 

 

 

Death certificates are used to close down accounts and tie up loose ends on someone’s estate.

How many you will need to order depends on how many assets the person had, but our suggestion is that you start with two or three.

Many attorneys, friends, and family will suggest that you get five-ten death certificates. While these people have good intentions, things have changed a great deal in the past few years and most institutions aren’t requiring original death certificates. For example, bank account and investment firms will accept photocopies of the original “certified copy.”

Each copy is $21. That is the county’s cost, not our funeral home cost (though we will collect the money and pass the order along to the county on your behalf.) Keep in mind that you are aways able to get additional certified copies if you find you need them in the future.

 

 

Clarity’s goal is to be transparent not only about the process of cremation and burial, but also the prices we charge for cremation and burial. You can find the detailed answers about pricing on our cremation pricing page or burial pricing page.

Clarity Funerals doesn’t use “hidden fees” or gotchas in our pricing. You should know exactly what you’re getting and how much it will cost. Not only is it the law, it’s the right thing to do.

 

Planning

 

When a death occurs, please call us – 24 hours a day – at 323-457-3335 to let us know. This will allow us to guide you, answer any questions you have, and explain the next steps.

 

 

 

If someone is under hospice care at home or in a care facility (hospital, nursing home, hospice), their nurse or social worker will help you connect with us as the time grows closer.

Let the facility know that you have chosen to use Clarity Funerals and provide them with our phone number: 323-457-3335. It is wise to also call us directly at the time of passing to make sure all the information has been communicated.

 

 

 

Instead of calling the funeral home directly, you will have to call 911 to notify them of the death. They will arrive and assess the situation before contacting the county coroner to review the death to determine what additional action may need to be taken.

Once this happens, Clarity Funerals should be notified at 323-457-3335.

 

 

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