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How to Buy a Memorial

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When it comes time to choose a memorial, take your cue from the Monument Builders of North America. Relax, do your research, and plan ahead. Like every major investment, the choice of a memorial deserves careful attention.

First, understand your rights. When you plan a funeral, either on a pre-need basis or because of a current loss, a funeral home may try to convince you that only they can sell you your monument. Likewise, when you purchase cemetery property, the cemetery may make similar claims. The truth is simple: None of these entities can force you to purchase a memorial from them. Furthermore, you may find it easier to choose this form of enduring tribute after you’ve finished making all the other arrangements involved in this complex, emotional process.

Before you buy cemetery property, let alone a memorial, sit down with a local monument builder and find out about cemetery regulations in your area. These regulations specify the types and dimensions of monuments you can use in some or all sections of individual cemeteries. Before you invest, verify that the property you choose will accept the type of memorial you want.

Look for a monument showroom in which you can see real examples of various types of monuments. If no showroom exists in your area, ask the monument builder to show you examples in a local cemetery.

Talk with a monument builder about how you can design a custom memorial or at least customize an existing style. For example, you may be able to add bronze fixtures, including remembrance lamps and vases, as well as floral attachments, religious tributes, and photo reproductions.

Along with these types of customization options, consult with your monument builder about the text, epitaph, symbols, and floral emblems to engrave on your monument. Verify exactly what the memorial will say before you authorize final carvings. The builder should provide you with sketches, digital visualizations, rubbings, or other review materials so you can proofread text and see exactly how the finished work will look.

Why Purchase a Monument on a Pre-Need Basis?
More and more people choose to make advance memorial purchases. Buying your own monuments enables you to assure that you get exactly what you want rather than leaving the selection to family members. If you take charge of this decision, you give yourself the opportunity to turn your monument into a statement of your values, beliefs, accomplishments, and traditions, a message to future generations about your life and purpose. Even a detailed written description of the tribute you want can’t capture your wishes as thoroughly as a memorial you choose and customize yourself.

By saving your family from the need to choose your monument for you, you also save them some of the emotional trauma that can surround this decision when it must be made on an immediate basis. Of course, you can include your family in pre-need design decisions and the purchase itself.

Pre-need purchases also can save you money. Prices go up, not down, and the sooner you invest in your monument, the less it will cost you.

Monument Selection
If you’ve visited cemeteries recently, you’ve seen a wide range of monument styles, from flat, slanted, or beveled markers that stand at ground level to upright memorials with multiple sections assembled into elaborate configurations. Some styles incorporate statues, crosses, and vases for floral arrangements.

Memorials use a short list of types of stone, which range in quality and appearance. Granite leads the list, offering an ideal balance between price and durability. Its long list of color choices includes gray, black, brown, pink, red, blue, and green, unlike marble, which comes only in white and gray. Flat markers often are fabricated from bronze, which also is used to embellish monuments.

Ask your monument builder to show you actual examples of monument styles rather than photographs, renderings, or promotional brochures. Your builder’s sample display gives you a realistic look at the styles and features you can select.

Monument Styles
Flat markers, also called lawn-level or grass markers, lie nearly flush with the ground. They offer fewer personalization options than other types of monuments because of their small size and equally small surface area. If it’s important to you that a memorial be easy to see at a distance, a flat marker may not be your ideal choice.

Bevel markers rise farther above ground level than flat markers do. When you stand in front of one of these rectangular markers, the top edge nearest you measures approximately two inches shorter than the corresponding edge parallel to it.

Slant-faced markers consist of an upright, vertical piece of stone with or without a stone base. They typically measure between 12 and 16 inches in height, with engravings placed on the vertical surface.

Ledgers cover an entire grave with a flat piece of stone approximately eight inches thick. Engraved, they can substitute for other forms of memorials, or they may accompany flat, bevel, or upright markers.

Upright memorials, which most people call headstones, combine a stone base with a vertical stone tablet. These monuments offer the widest range of customization and personalization options.

Other monument styles include benches, pillars, special configurations designed for cremations, and statues, all the way up to mausoleums that can rival a residence in price and grandeur.

Monument Prices
Monument size and weight, the grade and color of material, the design options you choose, and the fees you pay to the cemetery itself add up to the total cost of a memorial. A flat marker or simple upright monument may cost less than $1,000. An elaborate upright memorial may cost $10,000 or more. Upright monuments incorporate a concrete foundation to minimize instability and shifting.

Monument Warranties
Most monument builders provide warranties that cover problems with materials, manufacturing, and setup. Ask to see a copy of the coverage your builder will offer. In lieu of a builder’s warranty, you can obtain a 10-year protection program from the Monument Builders of North America with up to $10,000 of coverage.

Cemetery Regulations
Every cemetery imposes its own set of regulations on the monuments placed on its grounds. Some only allow flat markers. Others place different restrictions on individual sections of their property. Before you purchase property in a cemetery, verify the rules that regulate the types of memorial options you can add, and choose your monument accordingly.

A memorial park, for example, will allow only flat markers and may stipulate specific height limits for these monuments. These restrictions ease the care of cemetery property by making the grounds easier to mow.

Some cemeteries levy fees for specific services, including monument installation, maintenance, and perpetual care. Ask to see a full schedule of costs for these types of add-on fees.

Along with legitimate additional costs, some cemeteries attempt to convince you that you must purchase a monument from them, that only they can install your memorial, or that the cost of the lot includes monument installation. These practices are illegal. Before you purchase any cemetery property, ask questions to determine the facility’s policies and fee structure, and don’t sign a contract until you feel comfortable with the answers you receive.