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Pre Need Planning

In order to make an informed decision when you pre-arrange a funeral, you need to have answers to the following six questions:

  • Are merchandise and services guaranteed?
  • What price range is affordable?
  • What do I want?
  • What if I move and/or change funeral homes?
  • What are the tax consequences, if any, to funding my arrangements?
  • Will this benefit my loved ones and family in the future?

Essentially, funeral planning is a two step process: (1) Making the pre-arrangements, and (2) Funding the pre-arrangements. Why make the pre-arrangements? If you have ever made funeral arrangements after the death of a loved one, you already know the answer to that question. Funeral planning is difficult and emotionally exhausting while struggling with grief and shock. With the help of our qualified staff, planning in advance gives you the ability to make informed, insightful decisions that will spare your loved ones from this task. Why fund the pre-arrangements? Pre-funding may protect your family from the burden of funeral expenses. There are funding options and payment plans to meet almost any situation. When funding the pre-arrangement, your funeral contract will identify the person selling the contract and the person purchasing the contract. The contract will contain complete descriptions and current prices of merchandise and services that are purchased. Most, if not all, of the prices will be "frozen" or "guaranteed".

Funeral merchandise selections include, but not limited to, are: casket and/or urn, outer burial container, flowers, and occasionally, clothing. Funeral service selections include, but not limited to, are: professional services of funeral director and staff, transportation, embalming and other preperations, use of facilities for visitation, ceremony, funeral vehicles, music, opening and closing of grave, and pastoral services.

Here are some commonly "misguided" thoughts about funeral pre-arrangements:

  • Who cares what happens to me when I depart. Maybe you don't care, but your family or loved one will have to. Decisions made by them may be influenced by grief, not by reasonable thinking.
  • I don't want to think about it. No one wants to think about their own death. You don't want to think about a car accident or your home being destroyed either, but you probably have insurance on the car and home.
  • My insurance will take care of it. Insurance does not tell your loved ones how to plan your funeral, which funeral home to use, or how much to spend. Often, the policy coverage has been canceled or has expired.
  • I can't afford it. With the different payment plans, it may be more affordable than you think.
  • My friend, attorney, or family will arrange everything. Many decisions must be made, possibly by someone that you don't trust or agree with.
  • My decisions are noted in my will. Do you even have a will? If so, does someone know where it is? Most wills are not read until after the funeral has taken place.
  • I don't know what funeral home to choose, I may be moving in the future. Most funeral plans are transferable, allowing your plans to move with you.
  • The family knows what I want. Discussions about death with your family are rarely taken seriously and often avoided or "put off".
  • The government will take care of it, I'm a veteran. The government will take care of the expenses if you ARE on active duty at time of death.
  • Social Security pays for my funeral. Social Security only pays a "survivor benefit" of  $255.00 if there is an eligible spouse or dependent child.

The staff at Rawlings Funeral Home welcomes any questions you have. We want to be your source of information that will make your decisions as informed, intelligent, rational, and caring as possible.

What To Do When Death Occurs

  1. Make appointment with the Funeral Home by calling 865-453-5556. The funeral home will help coordinate arrangements with the cemetery. Some information to complete the State vital statistic requirements.
    • Birth Date
    • Birthplace
    • Father's Name
    • Mother's Name
    • Social Security Number
    • Veteran's Discharge or Claim Number
    • Education
    • Marital Status
  2. Contact your clergy. Decide on time and place of funeral or memorial service. This can be done at the funeral home.
  3. The funeral home will assist you in determining the number of copies of the death certificates you will be needing and can order them for you.
  4. Make a list of immediate family, close friends and employer or business colleagues. Notify each by phone.
  5. Decide on appropriate memorial to which gifts may be made (church, hospice, library, charity or school).
  6. Gather obituary information, including age, place of birth, cause of death, occupation, college degrees, memberships held, military service , outstanding work , list of survivors in immediate family. give time and place of services. The funeral home will normally write article and submit to newspapers (newspaper will accept picture and they will be returned intact).
  7. Arrange for members of family or close friends to take turns answering door or phone, keeping careful record of calls.
  8. If Social Security checks are automatic deposit, notify the bank of the death.
  9. Coordinate the supplying of food for the next several days.
  10. Consider special need of the household, such as cleaning , etc., which might be done by friends.
  11. Arrange for child care, if necessary.
  12. Arrange hospitality for visiting relatives and friends.
  13. Select pallbearers and notify the funeral home. (Avoid anyone with heart or back difficulties , or make them honorary pallbearers).
  14. Plan for disposition of flowers after funeral (church, hospital or rest home)
  15. Prepare list of distant persons to be notified by letter and/or printed notice, and decide which to send to each.
  16. Prepare list of persons to receive acknowledgments of flowers, calls, etc. Send appropriate acknowledgments (can be written note, printed acknowledgments, or some of each). Include "thank you's" to those who have given their time as well.
  17. Notify insurance companies.
  18. Locate the will and notify lawyer and executor.
  19. Check carefully all life and casualty insurance and death benefits , including Social Security, credit union , trade union, fraternal, and military. Check also on income for survivors from these sources.
  20. Check promptly on all debts and installment payments, including credit cards. Some may carry insurance clauses that will cancel them. If there is to be a delay in meeting payments, consult with creditors and ask for more time before the payments are due.
  21. If deceased was living alone, notify utilities and landlord and tell post office where to send mail.
  22. Funeral Director will prepare Social Security Form SSA 721. Check with Social Security to see that number is retired.

Social Security Information

The following checklist is designed to help you file for your Social Security benefits correctly so that prompt payments may be made. 


The deceased worker must have credit for work covered by Social Security, ranging from 1 1/2 to 10 years depending on his or her age at death.


  • A widow or widower age 60 or older (50 if disabled), or at any age if caring for an entitled child who is under 16 or disabled.
  • A divorced widow or widower age 60 or older (50 if disabled) if the marriage lasted 10 years, or if caring for an entitled child who is under 16 or disabled.
  • Unmarried children up to 18 (19 if they are attending a primary or secondary school full lime).
  • Children who were disabled before reaching 22, as long as they remained disabled.
  • Dependent parent or parents 62 or older.
  • A one time payment of $255 is paid in addition to the monthly cash benefits described above. The lump-sum death payment (LSDP) is paid in the following priority order:
  • A surviving spouse who lived in the same household as the deceased person at the time of death.
  • A surviving spouse eligible for or entitled to benefits for the month of death.
  • A child or children eligible for or entitled to benefits for the month of death.
  • You must apply in order to receive benefits. You may apply at any Social Security office or, if you wish, you may apply by telephone. Just dial the toll-free number 1-800-772-1213 and the operator will schedule an appointment for you or arrange for the local Social Security office to take your claim by telephone.
  • You may call Social Security toll-free, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. The number to use is 1-800-772-1213. Or to call locally (828)251-9941. To speak with a representative, call between the hours of 7:00am and 7:00pm on regular business days. At other times and on weekends and holidays, you may leave a message and they will call you back, in most cases, the next business day.
  • You may use the toll-free number to make an appointment either in a Social Security office or telephone to apply for benefits, transact other Social Security business, or just ask questions.

Veterans Benefits

Reimbursement of Burial Expenses 

VA will pay a burial allowance up to $2,000 if the veteran's death is service connected. VA also will pay the cost of transporting the remains of a service-disabled veteran to the national cemetery nearest the home of a deceased that has available gravesites. In such cases, the person who bore the veteran's burial expenses may claim reimbursement from VA. VA will pay a $300 burial and funeral expense allowance for veterans who, at time of death, were entitled to receive pension or compensation or would have been entitled to compensation but for receipt of military retirement pay. Eligibility also is established when death occurs in a VA facility or a nursing home with which VA contracted. Additional costs of transportation of the remains may be reimbursed. There is no time limit for filing reimbursement claims of service-connected deaths. In other deaths, claims must be filed within two years after permanent burial or cremation. 

VA will pay a $300 plot allowance when the veteran is not buried in a cemetery that is under U.S. Government jurisdiction if the veteran is discharged from active duty because of disability incurred or aggravated in line of duty, if the veteran was in receipt of compensation or pension or would have been in receipt of compensation but for receipt of military retired pay, or if the veteran died while hospitalized by VA. The plot allowance is not payable solely on wartime service. 

If the veteran is buried without charge for the cost of a plot or interment in a state-owned cemetery reserved solely for veteran burials, the $300 plot allowance may be paid to the state. Burial expenses paid by the deceased's employer or a state agency will not be reimbursed. 

Burial Flags

VA provides an American flag to drape the casket of a veteran and to a person entitled to retired military pay. After the funeral service, the flag may be given to the next of kin or a close associate. VA also will issue a flag on behalf of a service member who was missing in action and later presumed dead. Flags are issued at VA regional offices, national cemeteries, and post offices. 

Burial in National Cemeteries VA Cemeteries 

Burial benefits in a VA national cemetery include the gravesite, opening and closing of the grave, and perpetual care. Many national cemeteries have columbaria for the inurnment of cremated remains or special gravesites for the burial of cremated remains. Headstones and markers and their placement are provided at the government's expense. 

Veterans and armed forces members who die on active duty are eligible for burial in one of VA's 114 national cemeteries. An eligible veteran must have been discharged or separated from active duty under honorable or general conditions and have completed the required period of service. Persons entitled to retired pay as a result of 20 years creditable service with a reserve component are eligible. A U.S. citizen who served in the armed forces of a government allied with the United States in a war also may be eligible. 

Spouses and minor children of eligible veterans and of armed forces members also may be buried in a national cemetery. A surviving spouse of an eligible veteran who married a nonveteran, and whose remarriage was teminated by death or divorce, is eligible for burial in a national cemetery. 

Gravesites in national cemeteries cannot be reserved. Funeral directors or others making burial arrangements must apply at the time of death. Reservations made under previous programs are honored. The National Cemetery System normally does not conduct burials on weekends. A weekend caller, however, will be directed to on eof three strategically located VA cemetery offices that remain open during weekends to schedule burials at the cemetery of the caller's choice during the following week. 

Headstones and Markers 

VA provides headstones and markers for the unmarked graves of veterans anywhere in the world and for eligible dependents of veterans buried in national, state veteran or military cemeteries. 

Flat bronze, flat granite, flat marble, upright granite and upright marble types are available to mark the grave in a style consistent with the place of burial. Niche markers also are available to mark columbaria used for inurnment of cremated remains. 

Headstones and markers are inscribed with the name of the deceased, the years of birth and death, and branch of service. Optional items that also may be inscribed at VA expense are: military grade, rank or rate; war service such as World War II; months and days of birth and death; an emblem reflecting one's beliefs; valor awards; and the Purple Heart. Additional items may be inscribed at private expense. 

When burial is in a national, state veteran or military cemetery, the headstone marker is ordered through the cemetery, inscription, shipping and placement can be obtained from the cemetery. 

When burial occurs in a cemetery other than a national, military post or state veterans cemetery, the headstone marker must be applied for from VA. It is shipped at government expense. VA, however, does not pay the cost of placing the headstone or marker on the grave. To apply, you must complete VA form 40-1330 and forward it to Director, Office of Memorial Programs (403A), National Cemetery System, Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington, DC 20420. Forms and assistance are available at VA application you may call the Director, Office of Memorial Programs at 1-800-697-6947. 

VA cannot issue a headstone or marker for a spouse or child buried in a private cemetery. Twenty year reservists without active duty service are eligible for a headstone or marker, if they are entitled to military retired pay at the time of death. 

Headstones or Markers for Memorial Plots 

To memorialize an eligible veteran whose remains are not available for burial, VA will provide a plot and headstone or marker in a national cemetery. The headstone or marker is the same as that used to identify a grave except that the mandatory phrase "In Memory of" precedes the authorized inscription. The headstone or marker is available to memorialize eligible veterans or deceased active-duty members whose remains were not recovered or identified, were buried at sea, donated to science, or cremated and scattered. The memorial marker may be provided for placement in a cemetery other than a national cemetery. In such a case, VA supplies the marker and pays the cost of shipping, but does not pay for the plot or the placement of the marker. Only a relative recognized as the next of kin may apply for the benefit. 

Presidential Memorial Certificates

The Presidential Memorial Certificate is a parchment certificate with a calligraphic inscription expressing the nation's recognition of the veteran's service. The veteran's name is inscribed and the certificate bears the signature of the President. Certificates are issued in the name of honorably discharged, deceased veterans. Eligible recipients include next of kin, other relatives and friends. The award of a certificate to one eligible recipient does not preclude certificates to other eligible recipients. The veteran may have died at any time in the past. The local VA regional office generally originates the application for a Presidential Memorial Certificate. The next of kin also may request a certificate. Requests should be accompanied by a copy of a document such as a discharge to establish honorable service. VA regional offices can assist in applying for certificates. 

Headstone and Gravemarker Program

8:00am to 4:30pm Eastern Time

Government Life Insurance Information

VA Insurance Center
8:00am to 6:30pm Eastern Time

Veterans Service Offices

Knox County

Veterans Service Office
(865) 215-5645

Tennessee Dept. of Veterans Affairs


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