Frequently Asked Questions

If you do not see the answer to what you are looking for below, please send us a message on our contact us page.

At-Need Questions

My relative is close to dying (in hospital, residence or nursing home). When the time comes, what do I do?
Contact us at (253) 473-2901. Our staff is available to receive your call 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week. We will make arrangements to bring your loved one to Oakwood Hill immediately. You may also want to give our phone number to your loved one’s caretakers so that they can contact us at the time of your loved one’s passing.

After the death takes place, what is the next step?
Catch your breath and make those important phone calls. Then call our office to setup a time to meet with one of our funeral directors. At that time, we’ll go over your options and you can decide what is best. We’ll put your wishes into motion after we meet and you can rest assured your loved one is in caring hands.

How many death certificates will I need?
Certified copies of the death certificate are issued by the county health department where the death occurs. Your funeral director can assist you with obtaining as many or as few certified copies as you need to help settle the matters of your loved one’s estate.

Cemetery Questions

Why do people choose Oakwood Hill Cemetery when planning for the future and at the time of need?
Serving greater Tacoma since 1874, generations of your friends and neighbors have been served by Oakwood Hill. We offer funeral services and products, cremation services, cemetery options, and a chapel where friends and family can gather – all in one location. You are spared from spending hours on the phone talking with several different entities.

What are the hours of operation for the cemetery?
Our property is open from 8:30am to 5:00pm seven days a week.

Who owns Oakwood Hill Cemetery?
Oakwood Hill Cemetery is owned by the Gaffney Group. Gaffney Group is a family company that owns and operates cemeteries, cremation businesses and funeral homes in Western Washington.

My loved one died in another state, but they own property at Oakwood Hill Cemetery. How do we get them to you for burial?
If you will not be having any memorial services in another state, Oakwood Hill can simplify the process for you by making all of the transportation arrangements for the transfer of your loved one from another state to Oakwood Hill for funeral services and burial. You only need to make all of your arrangements with Oakwood Hill, not a second party or another mortuary. Simply contact us at (253) 473-2901, and we will arrange to have your loved one transferred to Oakwood Hill for burial. We will arrange for you to meet with one of our Funeral Directors either by phone or in-person to make the arrangements.

If you will be having church or memorial services outside of Washington in your state, you will need to contact a local funeral home to provide you with the mortuary services that you will need. Your funeral home will then make arrangements to ship your loved one to Oakwood Hill.

Why do I have to use an outer burial container in the cemetery? Is it required by law?
Washington State law does not require a vault or outer burial container. However, we require a vault at Oakwood Hill Cemetery to maintain the integrity of the ground and to prevent the ground from sinking. Ensuring that the ground stays level keeps the cemetery safe for staff and visitors.

When I buy a space or lot, do I own the land?
No. What you own is the right to determine who may be buried in your lot. These rights are called “interment rights.” The land remains the property, and the responsibility, of the cemetery.

Costs/Payment Plans

What are the cost of your services?
To see our complete pricing structure, please view our General Price List (GPL) as posted on this website. The cost of a funeral or cremation will vary based on your specific selections and personal preferences. To receive a quote based on your specific needs, please contact us at (253) 473-2901.

What methods of payment do you offer?
We accept Cash, Check, Debit card, American Express, Discover, Mastercard, Visa, Insurance Assignment of a Verifiable Policy, Advance Payment by a forwarding or receiving Funeral Home and Pre-Paid Advance Planning.

We don’t have a lot of money. Does Oakwood Hill offer any assistance or have a program for families who are low-income?
Oakwood Hill does not have a formal assistance program for low-income families. We make every effort to provide a wide variety of options for every budget. We also offer financing through Memorial Funding which can offer low monthly payments for our services and products. And when you plan in advance, we have many affordable payment options with low down payments. Contact us to meet with one of our advisors to discuss your special circumstances for further consideration.

How much does the Social Security Administration (SSA) pay for funeral expenses?
Upon death, dependents and survivors may be eligible for certain benefits such as Death Payments, Survivor’s Benefits and Medicare. Qualifications depend on age, marital status, number of dependents involved and if employment was under Social Security. Your Social Security account should be verified periodically to be sure contributions are properly posted. All benefits must be applied for; payment is not automatic. The current death benefit for surviving spouses from SSA at this time is $255.00.

How much does the Veterans Administration (VA) pay for funeral expenses?
There are many misconceptions regarding Veterans’ death benefits. Honorably discharged veterans may qualify for cemetery plot and burial allowances, headstone, and burial flag, as well as a pension for survivors. These benefits may affect decisions about funeral arrangements. Because qualifications and benefits vary, we recommend a personal review of your situation.

Can I pre-pay for my funeral or cremation expenses now? Do you have a pre-payment plan? (We own the property already).
Yes. You may fund your funeral or cremation arrangements by purchasing insurance. Simply contact us at (253) 473-2901, and we will have one of our representatives assist you in pre-planning your arrangements. Pre-planning can provide you with peace of mind and some protection from rising costs.

Cremation Questions

What is cremation?
Cremation is simply the process of reducing the human body to particles and bone fragments using high heat and flame or high pressure and water. It is not the scattering or burying of the ashes, and it is not a type of funeral service.

How long does the cremation process take?
It primarily depends on the weight and size of the decedent, but on average takes between two and three hours.

How soon after death can the cremation take place?
Given that we cremate seven days a week in our own crematory, it can happen quite quickly. Once we have all of the documentation complete, the account closed, the physician having signed the death certificate and approval from the county we are able to perform the cremation.

How can you assure me I will receive the ashes of my loved one?
Our crematory has strict procedures that all personnel must follow: only certified personnel can operate the equipment and everyone must use our positive identification system for the whole cremation process. Only one body is cremated at a time, in compliance with the law. We operate our own crematory and your loved one never leaves our care.

Funeral Questions

Is embalming required?
Embalming is required if there is going to be a public viewing. However, even in cases where no viewing is planned, most states require embalming when death was caused by a reportable contagious disease or when transferring of the deceased occurs from one state to another. You always have the option of selecting an immediate disposition arrangement that does not require embalming.

Why have a funeral?
Funerals fill an important role for those mourning the loss of a loved one. By providing surviving family and friends with an atmosphere of care and support in which to share thoughts and feelings about death, funerals are the first step in the healing process. It is the traditional way to recognize the finality of death. Funerals are recognized rituals for the living to show their respect for the dead and to help survivors begin the grieving process.

You can have a full funeral service even for those choosing cremation. Planning a personalized ceremony or service will help begin the healing process. Overcoming the pain is never easy, but a meaningful funeral or tribute will help.

Should I have a viewing?
Viewing is a part of many cultural and ethnic traditions. Many grief specialists believe that viewing aids the grief process by helping the bereaved recognize the reality of death. Viewing is encouraged for children, as long as the process is explained and the activity is voluntary.

What determines the cost of a funeral?
The cost of a funeral is determined primarily by the type of services and merchandise selected. Your funeral director will provide you with a copy of their General Price List prior to your making any selections. This price list will detail the various types of services available and the cost for each. In addition, if your arrangements involve the selection of a casket or outer burial container, you will be shown the price list for each prior to making a selection.

Prior to completing the funeral arrangements, your funeral director will prepare an itemized list of all of your selections for services, merchandise and any charges from outside parties that are being paid through the funeral home. Be sure to ask any questions you may have; your funeral director is there to help ensure you are comfortable with your selections. 

Preplanning Questions

What is preplanning?
This is simply recording yours or your loved ones’ final wishes. Those wishes can be related to burial, cremation, entombment and memorialization preferences and instructions. By recording and registering your final wishes with the funeral home and/or cemetery, you offer your loved ones a final gift of allowing them to say goodbye and not wonder what you would have wanted.

How difficult is the preplanning process?
Oakwood Hill’s Family Service Advisors are fully trained and knowledgeable in handling all 3 of the Preplanning considerations; Funeral, Cemetery and Memorialization. This process is not difficult at all as we will guide you through each very important step including your funding options.

Can I make payments if I preplan?
Yes! Preplanning affords the opportunity to make payments. Many of our Cemetery and Memorialzation plans come with zero interest as well! There are many pricing options affordable to everyone.

Can I preplan everything at one time?
Absolutely! Since we handle every item, no need to travel to multiple locations or different businesses. We provide you with complete service options and more experience than any other business in Greater Pierce County.

Can I make adjustments to my preplans if I desire?
Absolutely! At any time that you may need to make changes or need more information, our staff is always available to help. It is our empathic approach to all that we do in preplanning that truly sets us apart at Oakwood Hill.