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Beyond The Services

Guidance for what to do in the weeks and months after the death of your loved one.



Honorariums are monetary gifts given by the family to those who took part in the funeral services. For instance, most families choose to give an honorarium to the officiating minister. Honorariums should also be given to an organist, soloist, bugler, or any other participant in the services. Unless a fee is specified, the amount of the honorarium would be?your choice. You may personally give out the honorariums or we can do it on your behalf.

What Happens to the Flowers

Sending flowers to the funeral home is an age-old custom whereby people can immediately express their support to the family of the deceased. At the conclusion of the funeral service, many of these flowers can be taken to the cemetery for the committal service and then placed on the closed grave. Usually, any plants, dish gardens or other special flower arrangements are kept by the family. We will ask you about the flowers and what you want done with them.

On-Line Condolences

This website contains a condolence service in which anybody can read an obituary and write a remembrance of the deceased or a message to the family. In addition, both local newspapers, the Meadville Tribune and the Erie Times-News, also feature a condolence service. For many people, both those living locally and far away, this is a very efficient method of expressing their sympathy. You will want to periodically read the condolences found in this website.

Sending “Thank You” Notes

It would be appropriate for you and your family to acknowledge or thank those who in some way helped or supported you during your time of loss. Those who sent flowers or food, or who gave memorial contributions will certainly need to be acknowledged. You may also want to thank the pallbearers or others that assisted in some special way. A simple card with a personal note or just a card with your name signed will appropriately convey your gratitude. The Van Matre Funeral Home offers personalized thank you notes for your convenience.

Letter of Attendance at Funeral

Some employers or airlines require a letter from the funeral home certifying that their employee or passenger was in attendance for the services. We will furnish this letter if the name, address, and relationship to the deceased are given.

Death Certificates

The Van Matre Funeral Home will be in contact with the attending physician of the deceased or the coroner who will record the cause of death and sign the original death certificate. The funeral director will complete and also sign the original. This original death certificate will then be filed with the State Bureau of Vital Records.

Individually numbered and certified copies of the original death certificate will need to be ordered by the funeral director. In Pennsylvania, the cost is $9 per copy and can usually be obtained within 1 or 2 weeks after the death. We will contact you when we receive the certified copies.

Social Security

We will notify the Social Security Administration of a death by submitting Form SSA-721.

Usually, the final Social Security monthly check received by the deceased is invalid and needs to be returned. The one-time payment of $255 is only payable to a surviving spouse or child who is eligible for benefits.

A call to the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 can clear up any questions you may have.

Veterans Benefits

There are death benefits for eligible veterans. We will need a copy of the deceased?s Honorable Discharge and Form DD-214 or Enlistment Record to apply for benefits. Both Crawford and Erie Counties pay a veteran?s benefit, and if the deceased died in a VA hospital or died of a service-related illness, a federal benefit may apply.

Life Insurance Claims

If the deceased had life insurance, it is recommended that you contact the agent or the company and notify them of the death. They will then mail a claim form to you. This claim form must be completed and mailed to them along with a certified copy of the death certificate before they can pay any benefit. If everything is in order, most insurance companies will issue the benefit within a few weeks. We can assist you in this process.

Settling the Estate

Settling an estate can be an intimidating task if you have never done it before. Certainly a lawyer can help you through the process in the most efficient way.

It will be important for you to know if the decedent had a will, and if there is an executor or executrix named. If not, then an Administrator will have to be sworn in by the Register of Wills in the county where the decedent lived. The Register of Wills will provide either the Letters Testamentary for the executor, or the Letters of Administration for the administrator. This document will allow the executor or the administrator to act on behalf of the estate.

The main duties of the executor or the administrator are to probate the will, identify the assets of the estate, pay the expenses and taxes of the estate from the assets, and distribute property to the heirs.

Cemetery Monuments

One of the most enduring memorials that can be made is the cemetery monument. Not only does it mark a grave, but it more importantly can characterize the deceased for generations to come.

For many years, we have partnered with Sunset Memorials to design and install monuments. We would be glad to meet with your family to talk about cemetery monuments.


We at the Van Matre Funeral Home will continue to be available in the coming weeks, months, and years ahead to serve your family and other families just like yours. Please contact us.

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