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2, Thursday | April 26, 2012, Bangor Daily News

Medallions ensure veterans’ graves are properly identified By David M. Fitzpatrick SPECIAL SECTIONS WRITER

Late last year, funeral directors heard about something new from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Jim Fernald of Brookings-Smith Funeral Homes wants everyone to know. The federal government has long provided free grave markers for honorably discharged veterans, including flat stone markers, upright stone markers like you’d see at Arlington National Cemetery, or bronze plaques in two sizes. But not every veteran or veteran’s family chooses these options. “What we’ve found is that there are so many veterans [who have] bought their own markers,” Fernald said. “There are all different reasons for that.” For example, many people like to have their markers purchased and in place before they die. Some may be matching stones with a family plot or may not care for the designs of the government stones. But when volunteers come around on Memorial Day to plant flags on veterans’ graves, those without markers identifying them as veterans get missed. “I know probably half of veterans we meet with families already have their own stones,” he said. “Every Memorial Day, we always get a complaint: ‘Why didn’t they know that my husband was a veteran?’ If it’s not a veteran stone, they wouldn’t know that. This is one way to signify that.” Now, families of deceased veterans can request the DVA’s new bronze medallions instead of stones, which can be easily affixed to existing headstones and ensure veterans in private cemeteries are properly identified. The medallions are available in three sizes: 1.5 inches, 3 inches, and 5 inches. The medallions come as a kit with all mounting hardware and instructions. Using the included epoxy, anyone can easily affix the medallion to the headstone. If you’d prefer to use the included screws, the DVA recommends hiring a stone mason

or monument company, as it requires drilling into the stone with specialized drill bits. Families can request the medallions through their funeral directors, who can help them file the right forms, but there are two requirements. First, the veteran must have died on or after Nov. 1, 1990. Second, the family must have a copy of the veteran’s discharge paperwork. For military veterans, this is a DD Form 214 (Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty); for National Guard veterans, this is an NGB Form 22 (Report of Separation). Whether stone markers or medallions, Fernald said the government has always provided top-notch materials. “Since I’ve been a funeral director… they’ve never cut back on the quality of these things,” he said. Brookings-Smith Funeral Director Chris Bowers has a unique view from both angles. He grew up in a funeralhome family before joining the Army in 1970. He worked in personnel and logistics, some in field artillery, and served with combat engineer unit. Most of his duty was stateside, but he went to Germany once and to Canada several times. He retired in 2000, a Chief Warrant Officer 5. Then he joined Brookings-Smith. “I was getting ready to retire, wondering what I was going to do, this is something I knew how to do,” he said. “So I went to school, got my license.” His military service has always been strong in his mind, however. A few years ago, when he heard about the funeral directors working at Dover Air Force Base who hadn’t had time off due to the heavy workload as bodies of service men and women came back from Iraq and Afghanistan, he took a week off to go down and volunteer his time as a civilian funeral director. “I knew that they were having people come in just so that people who worked there full time could take vacation time,” he said. “So I went down over the Fourth of July one year, worked for a week. It was a quite an experience.”


Funeral Director Jim Fernald of Brookings-Smith Funeral Homes holds one of the bronze medallions. The medallion is affixed to a private headstone and identifies the deceased as a veteran and his branch of service. This ensures that veterans’ graves are properly identified on Memorial Day, when flags are placed on veterans’ graves, and just that they’re identified as veterans’ graves at all.

Bowers really appreciates the medallion project. “I think it’s great — to honor the veterans so that those that have purchased their stones by themselves because they wanted something specific can identify them as being a veteran,” he said. “It just makes it so they can put that flag there [on Memorial Day],” said Fernald, “to give them the dignity and respect they deserve.”

This supplement was produced and published by the

Editor: David M. Fitzpatrick Sales: John Browning Cover Design: Michele Prentice If you’re interested in participating in next year’s Funeral and Estate Planning supplement, contact John Browning at 990-8271 or

Bangor Daily News, Thursday | April 26, 2012, 3

Pre-planning: A responsibility to your family By David M. Fitzpatrick SPECIAL SECTIONS WRITER

When George Weiland Jr. relocated from Washington state to Washington County, he discovered Maine was much like his home state. But one thing that was different was funeral pre-planning. In Washington, someone could become a pre-needs information provider in perhaps a few weeks. But in Maine, you must have graduated from a mortuary school accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education, serve one to two years as an apprentice, and be licensed by the state board as a funeral service practitioner before being able to properly educate others about pre-planning. “I always counsel folks… to pre-plan in some way — even if you don’t come in and sit down with me and take out a guaranteed trust… have life insurance available,” Weiland said. “For a few dollars a month… it will make a world of difference to your family.” After 15 years in funeral service, Weiland says that while more people are

aware of pre-planning, many still aren’t doing it. And they should, because in the middle of a loved one’s death is the worst time to be dealing with financial woes. People often pre-plan after a death has happened, either because the decedent properly pre-planned and made it easier for the family — or didn’t properly pre-plan and made it harder. But when it comes to pre-planning, there’s often a lot of misinformation, often from well-meaning service organizations disseminating incorrect data, things we see on television, or misinformed neighbors and friends. “Sometimes it’s just ‘We thought that this was the way things were,’” Weiland said. “Because of that, there does end up being some education of what actually is entailed in the process. From my personal practice, I like to keep the process as transparent as possible I do that by answering questions directly, honestly, and by being able to provide references to support my information.” Weiland said that if you don’t have a life-insurance policy or otherwise have money that is accessible to your family set aside for final expenses, your best bet

is a mortuary trust, which any funeral director can help set up. You’ll talk with the director about what you want for your funeral: whether burial or cremation, what type of urn or casket you’d like, and much more, covering every detail. The funeral director will ask plenty of questions to ensure all the bases are covered. When the cost is figured, the director will set up the mortuary trust through a bank. You’ll begin paying into the trust, which also earns interest over time. The goal is to ultimately invest enough money into the trust to cover your expenses. “I basically explain it as… putting your funeral on layaway,” Weiland said. “When the time comes, we take the money in the account and we complete our arrangements with the rest of the family,” Weiland said. “In many cases, there’s not any out-of-pocket expenses for surviving family members.” Weiland said he knows it’s difficult to talk about this, especially with an undertaker. But he wants people to know that that isn’t just a job for him. “I have been on the other side of the


George Weiland Jr., operations manager, Bragdon-Kelley Funeral Homes. table, and I understand what it is like to lose my grandparents, to lose my father, to lose one of my sons,” he said. “I’m well aware of what that pain is, and even

being… a funeral director, I still have that human experience, and I have that appreciation for the person that I’ve See PLANNING, Page 7

4, Thursday | April 26, 2012, Bangor Daily News

How we remember: A celebration of your loved one’s life By David M. Fitzpatrick SPECIAL SECTIONS WRITER

In the old days, a funeral was a formulaic affair comprised of a somber viewing, a tearful service, and solemn procession to the cemetery. A lot has changed, and while nobody would call a funeral a happy affair, there has been a shift towards balancing the grief and sorrow with a celebration of remembrance. “I believe in celebrating one’s life, whether it’s a birthday, whether it’s Christmas, [an] anniversary, [or] whatever it may be,” said Thomas Fernald of Jordan-Fernald Funeral Homes. “That’s part of life, a celebration.” It’s common to have photos displayed at services, he said. Jordan-Fernald can create videos set to music, displaying pictures from the decedent’s life. But

these days, services are becoming even more personalized as families and friends seek to celebrate the departed in a special way. Funeral Director Lauri Fernald recalled the service of a history teacher who was a Civil War reenactor. Being part of his reenactment group was a major part of his life and his funeral echoed it, complete with period uniforms. “I can remember the funeral in Somesville... they were outside and it was starting to snow, and they all walked to the cemetery with the hearse following slowly behind them,” she said. “It was really very meaningful.” That sort of service memorializes who the person was, and facilitating such events is in line with Jordan-Fernald’s membership with The Remembrance Process. The Remembrance Process is a coalition of member funeral

homes and cemeteries committed to the basic tenet that human beings want to be remembered. The process is a step-bystep method its members use to properly help family and friends say goodbye, but also to help people build lasting memories that go far beyond. “[It’s] more about the person’s life, not the person’s death,” said Funeral Director Eric Schwitz. The funeral itself is highly customizable. Ideally, the departed already chose such things as a casket or urn before passing; if not, the family has ample choices available. But beyond the basics, personalization is available for everything from choice of register books to panels inside the casket lid displaying Bible verses or military symbols representative of the individual. Aspects of who the person was pervade the service. Golf clubs may be displayed for the links lover, or a fishing pole or mounted trophy bass for the avid outdoorsman. If Grandma was a champion knitter, perhaps some of her projects are displayed. Poetry or artwork by the deceased may be showcased. Favorite teddy bears or toys may accompany a child. And photos are bound to be everywhere. But what about after the service? Beyond pictures and videos, it’s easier


Below: Eric Schwitz talks about Thumbies Fingerprint Keepsakes, which reproduces fingerprints, footprints, and handprints on keepsake pendants. Left: A silver Thumbies pendant with an engraving of a footprint along with a birthstone. Multiple prints can appear on a single pendant.

than ever to keep a bit of your loved one with you forever. Funeral homes are now able to offer keepsake pendants, bracelets, necklaces, and other jewelry item that contains a small amount of a loved one’s cremated remains. Designs span the gamut and include miniature urns, hearts, crosses and more. In addition, keepsake memories of a loved one can include laser etching or diamond engraving of the loved ones image on a pendant while micro-lens pendants can contain laser-etched images that you can see by holding the lens up to your eye. Instead of toting mementos around, they can be mounted inside display

domes. Photo etchings can also be done on wood, stone, or steel, so your loved one’s face can smile down at you from the side of an urn on the mantle. One popular service comes from Thumbies Fingerprint Keepsakes. Thumbies will take a fingerprint, handprint, or footprint from your loved one and etch it onto a pendant or charm. The company can work off prints of the deceased, or from existing prints, such as on a birth certificate or military form. (Thumbies are also popular for the living; parents can have multiple prints See REMEMBER, Page 6

A marble urn laser-etched with the image of the departed loved one. In the past, urns were generally decorated only with text. Now, with such technologies as laser etching more readily and inexpensively available, you can reproduce photographs on everything from stone to metal to wood.

Bangor Daily News, Thursday | April 26, 2012, 5

Avoiding common mistakes and misconceptions in estate planning By Nathaniel S. Putnam, Esq. SHAREHOLDER, EATON PEABODY

An important aspect of estate planning is understanding the different mechanisms by which ownership of assets is transferred when someone dies. In Maine, there are four principal ways that your assets can pass to your loved ones when you die. These are joint ownership, probate, beneficiary designations, and through the use of a living trust. Understanding these mechanisms and how they relate to one another is essential to achieving your estate-planning objectives. Probate and Joint Ownership. Consider an elderly man whose planning objective is to leave his estate equally to his three adult children. He signs a will that would accomplish this. All of his assets are held in various bank

accounts. He asks one of his children to help him pay his monthly bills. To facilitate this, he adds the child’s name to all of his bank accounts, which makes the child a joint owner of these accounts. When the father dies, the child will own all of the accounts automatically with no obligation to share them with his siblings. The father’s will is irrelevant. A will only controls the transfer of “probate assets,” which generally include only assets that a person owns individually with no joint owners and that are not subject to beneficiary designations. In this case, the father should consider giving the child a durable power of attorney rather than adding him as a joint owner of the bank accounts. Beneficiary Designations. Most individuals own some assets that will not be governed by their will when they die. In

addition to jointly owned property, common examples of these “non-probate” assets are life insurance, IRAs, 401(k)s and other qualified retirement assets, and most annuities. When you die, these assets are distributed to your designated beneficiary rather than under your will. An essential part of the planning process, therefore, is making sure your beneficiary designations for these non-probate assets are coordinated with the provisions of your will. Trusts. A living trust (i.e., a trust that you establish during your lifetime) can be used to control the disposition of your assets at your death without those assets being subject to probate. If your assets are transferred to the trust before death, the terms of the trust (and not your will) will govern how those assets are distributed after you die. Many people believe that it is essential to “avoid

probate.” These concerns frequently are the result of negative experiences with probate systems in other states (e.g., Florida). Fortunately, Maine has a relatively simple probate system compared to many states, so you generally don’t need a trust if your only concern is avoiding probate. There are numerous other reasons why you may need a trust, but probate avoidance in Maine is usually not one of them. Understanding the different ways that your assets will pass to your loved ones when you die is an important part of the

planning process. It will go a long way toward making sure that you accomplish your objectives. Nat Putnam is Chair of the Estate Planning and Wealth Transfer Practice group at Eaton Peabody. Nat’s practice is concentrated in the areas of estate planning, trust and estate administration, and planning for owners of closely held businesses. He provides advice on estate and gift tax planning, various types of trusts, and other tax-planning vehicles. To learn more, visit

subject to delays and excess fees (depending on the state), and your assets will be a matter of public record. With a plan, you can structure things so that probate can be avoided entirely.

For more information and resources for elders, visit Elder Law Answers online at

10 reasons to create an estate plan now By Many people think that estate plans are for someone else, not them. They may rationalize that they are too young or don’t have enough money to reap the tax benefits of a plan. But as the following list makes clear, estate planning is for everyone, regardless of age or net worth. (For more information on estate planning, visit’s Estate Planning section.) 1. Loss of capacity What if you become incompetent and unable to manage your own affairs? Without a plan the courts will select the person to manage your affairs. With a plan, you pick that person (through a power of attorney). 2. Minor children Who will raise your children if you die? Without a plan, a court will make that decision. With a plan, you are able to nominate the guardian of your choice. 3. Dying without a will Who will inherit your assets? Without a plan, your assets pass to your heirs according to your state’s laws of intestacy (dying without a will). Your family members (and perhaps not the ones you would choose) will receive your assets without benefit of your direction or of trust protection. With a plan, you decide who gets your assets, and when and how they receive them. 4. Blended families What if your family is the result of multiple marriages? Without a plan, children from different marriages may not be treated as you would wish. With a

plan, you determine what goes to your current spouse and to the children from a prior marriage or marriages. 5. Children with special needs Without a plan, a child with special needs risks being disqualified from receiving Medicaid or SSI benefits, and may have to use his or her inheritance to pay for care. With a plan, you can set up a Supplemental Needs Trust that will allow the child to remain eligible for government benefits while using the trust assets to pay for non-covered expenses. 6. Keeping assets in the family Would you prefer that your assets stay in your own family? Without a plan, your child’s spouse may wind up with your money if your child passes away prematurely. If your child divorces his or her current spouse, half of your assets could go to the spouse. With a plan, you can set up a trust that ensures that your assets will stay in your family and, for example, pass to your grandchildren. 7. Financial security Will your spouse and children be able

to survive financially? Without a plan and the income replacement provided by life insurance, your family may be unable to maintain its current living standard. With a plan, life insurance can mean that your family will enjoy financial security. 8. Retirement accounts Do you have an IRA or similar retirement account? Without a plan, your designated beneficiary for the retirement account funds may not reflect your current wishes and may result in burdensome tax consequences for your heirs (although the rules regarding the designation of a beneficiary have been eased considerably). With a plan, you can choose the optimal beneficiary. 9. Business ownership Do you own a business? Without a plan, you don’t name a successor, thus risking that your family could lose control of the business. With a plan, you choose who will own and control the business after you are gone. 10. Avoiding probate Without a plan, your estate may be

6, Thursday | April 26, 2012, Bangor Daily News

Some ideas for personal tributes By the National Funeral Directors Assn.

A funeral is so much more than a way to say goodbye; it’s an opportunity to celebrate the life of someone special. Today, a funeral can be as unique as the individual who is being honored. From simple touches like displaying personal photographs to events created around a favorite pastime, funerals can reflect any aspect of a person’s life and personality. Following are questions you can use to help you decide how to personalize a service: • What did the person like to do? • What was the person like as an individual? • What was the person like as a professional? • Was the person spiritual? • Was the person proud of their heritage? For additional ideas on personalizing a funeral, please contact your local NFDA funeral director. What did the person like to do? Often people have hobbies that become more than just a casual pastime, perhaps as much a part of who they were as their smile. Why not showcase that important part of their life during the funeral? Incorporating a hobby can be as simple as: • Displaying hobby items; e.g. sports equipment, gardening tools, or collections. • Personalizing the casket or urn with a symbol of their hobby.

Remember Continued from Page 4 etched onto a pendant, such as having all the children together, and pendants can incorporate birthstones as well.) “People are really looking at a lot of ways to remember,” said Lauri. However, a funeral home isn’t like a retail shop; you shouldn’t ever have a salesman trying to convince you that

• Displaying trophies or awards they won. • Creating a picture board or presentation featuring pictures of them engaged in their hobby. • Having someone speak about the person’s passion for the hobby. By adding these or other personal touches to a funeral, the service becomes a reflection of the person’s life and personality. What was the person like as an individual? One way to enhance a funeral is by bringing a piece of the person’s personality to life. Consider what made that person special, what made them who they were? Then find ways to link their individuality to traditional aspects of a funeral service. As an example, an avid cowboy or cowgirl may want to ride of into the sunset one last time. Tasteful ways to honor their wish include: • Using a covered wagon rather than a hearse • Displaying saddle and riding equipment • Playing western music • Having their horse walk in the procession • Having a barbecue after the service Other themes you may want to consider: • Military honors for armed forces members • Tailgate party for a sports enthusiast • Harley-Davidson rally for the Harley owner

you need this or that. “We don’t sell anything,” Tom stressed. “We tell them what we have and show them, but we don’t say, ‘This is what you need, and you should have it.’ We… let them make their own decisions.” Lauri believes this recent explosion of interest in personalization is likely part of a broader cultural shift. While many people are connected to their faith, the process of death has become less tied to a church, and more about honoring the departed. They’re using the funeral

What was the person like as a professional? Many people take great pride in their career. Perhaps they dedicated a lifetime to a profession that transformed into more than just a job. If this holds true for your loved one, you may want to consider ways to include their professional life into their funeral service. Following are two examples of how you could incorporate a profession into a service: For a teacher: • Have the choir or band from the school perform during the visitation or service • Encourage students to write essays about the person, which could be displayed. • Invite a past student to speak at the service For a fire person/police officer: • Incorporate any honors or traditions that their department has established • Fire trucks/police vehicles in the procession • Have bagpipers play at the visitation/service • Display their uniform and equipment

most people have some sense of spirituality in their life. Often those values are from the very core of who the person was in life. Therefore, you may feel it is important to incorporate the individual’s sense of spirituality into their funeral service. Following are ideas on how to incorporate spirituality into a funeral service: • Hold the service at the person’s parish or religious facility. • Have someone read excerpts from a key religious publication (i.e. Bible, Koran, etc.). • Decorate the funeral home with symbols of the person’s faith. • Have the person’s cremated remains scattered at a place of spiritual significance to them. • Read a prayer that touches on their key beliefs. • Include sacred music from the religion in the service.

Was the person spiritual? Through organized religion or personal beliefs,

For more resources, visit the National Funeral Directors Association at

home and cemetery more. “I think that part of it is they don’t want it to necessarily be about viewing the person and a casket and that kind of thing; they want it to be more about the person,” she said. “That’s really, I think, what’s gotten to the personalization.” That personalization is part of the road to acceptance of the loss of a loved one. “It’s not like it’s ever a closed book… because the person’s always with you in your heart and in your mind,” said Lauri. “You just adjust your life around not having certain people in it anymore,” said Eric. “We all have to say good-bye to each other at some point in time. Sometimes it’s through death; sometimes it’s other ways. But we all say good-bye. But you never get over anybody. You just learn to live life without them.”


Lauri Fernald of Jordan-Fernald Funeral Homes shows a cherry urn. A three-dimensional lighthouse was etched through a combined laser carving and laser engraving process. Any image from scenes to photos can easily be put on many items and surfaces.

Bangor Daily News, Thursday | April 26, 2012, 7

Importance and ease of having a will



You know you’ve grown up when you and your husband write a will. As homeowners and 30-somethings with a pair of adorable pets, we knew that if something happened to us we wouldn’t just need life insurance. We’d need a properly written will. And there’s nothing that makes you consider the hard questions more than having a last will and testament, as well as power of attorney and medical power of attorney written. But answer them we did in 2011. And if you haven’t had your will drawn up, you should.

Why a will?


When a loved one dies, the last The will of Alfred Nobel, wherein he endowed the Nobel Prize. Your goals thing you want to be thinking about with your will may or may not be as lofty as Nobel’s, but it’s just as is all the legal stuff that happens to important that you write one. his estate. The estate could be large or it could be small, but the state tributed. That’s harder than you might but trust me, you don’t want to. With issues as complicated as writing a will will get its cut. And if you’re plan- think, especially without heirs. ning on leaving items to family, We own a house as joint tenants in and determining financial and medfriends, or having assets distributed common. Our will stipulates what hap- ical directives, hiring a lawyer who to organizations, a properly written pens to the house in the event of our specializes in this topic was a godsend. We hired a lawyer who specializes in will makes it so much easier. passing. The impetus to write our will, and We own cars, life insurance policies, wills and estate planning and she draft our healthcare documents, came and multiple assets. By writing a will walked us through the process, as we’d been workthere’s no question explaining things to us and making ing on our financial that the ownership sure we understood our rights and our decisions. plan. We knew a will transfers to. Now, we know In addition, by having our lawyer was important but In addition, I own that we’ll both be a business aside work just hadn’t gotten on this for us, there were no addiaround to it. But we taken care of if the from my job at the tional surprises and she handled all of also knew that by BDN. Business own- the filing. We have a legal copy of the worst happens. NOT writing our ers, even sole propri- papers stashed away in our safe. And that’s a will, we were playThe cost was reasonable for the etors like me, also great feeling. ing with fire. Life have needs they amount of work that goes into drafting insurance wouldn’t need to address and finalizing all three documents. On cut it. when it comes to the day of the will signing, we had two And it didn’t hurt that once a year estate planning. witnesses at the will reading. The final with the publication of this suppleIn short, we decided to write our reading took about two hours. ment, I’m reminded about the not- wills, and our medical and financial Now, every 5-10 years, we’ll revisit the so-nice task of will writing. directives, to make decisions easier on documents with our lawyer and make For instance, we don’t have kids (yet). each other. When you’re dealing with changes as needed. However, we have pets. If something heavy issues, the last thing you need to But for now, we know that we’ll both happened to one (or both) of us, we think about are medical and financial be taken care of if the worst happens. could designate how they would be matters. And that’s a great feeling. cared for. If both of us were to pass, we had to Hiring professional help We could have done it ourselves, decide where our assets would be dis-

This may look like a plastic kitchen sink, but it’s much more than that. Many veterans opt for flat grave markers that lie flush with the surface of the ground. The problems with these stones are many. For example, it’s easy for them to get overgrown with grass as they sink into the earth, or covered in moss and lichen. Worse yet, lawn mowers frequently damage the stones. If a particular stone isn’t

regularly cared for, all these unfortunate things can happen. One solution is this nifty device. It sets into the ground and provides stability to prevent sinking. The stone sits within it. This model, available at Brookings-Smith in Bangor, has been dressed up with some artificial grass. This ensures flat veterans’ stones don’t get damaged, covered, or lost to history and Mother Nature.


sibility to your family,” he said. “As a husband, as a father, as a grandfather, I really… I consider it my responsibility that that money is there for my family when the time comes that I am gone.” Contact your funeral director to set up a meeting to discuss a mortuary trust. George Weiland is the operations director for Bragdon-Kelley Funeral Homes, with locations in Ellsworth, Machias, Milbridge, and Stonington. Visit online at

Continued from Page 3 been called to serve as well.” Weiland said he cannot stress enough the importance of some form of preplanning, whether a life-insurance policy, a mortuary trust, or a bank account on your own. “I consider it to be a personal respon-

8, Thursday | April 26, 2012, Bangor Daily News

Funeral and Estate Planning 2012  

Information on life planning: Medallions ensure veterans’ graves are properly identified - How we remember: A celebration of your loved one’...

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