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View Full Version : Is it appropriate to give a monetary gift to the family of someone who just died?


jaderabbit
01-18-2007, 11:44 PM
A beloved co-worker of mine has died, and I would like to do something for the family. Normally I'd take them a casserole and a story about the departed, but I'm temporarily housebound. The stories can go in a card, but is it appropriate to put something else in as well?

Some people have told me that monetary gifts are very welcome when someone has just died. Funerals are expensive, and the family might need the money. I have always been a little uncomfortable giving money to persons older than myself; it seems a little patronizing. However, if the money would help them without giving offense, I would happily give it.

Is it appropriate to give them money? Does it become more or less weird if I attach a brief note saying something to the effect of "please use this as you see fit" or a more flowery "I hope this can help the family he loved so very much"?

pool
01-18-2007, 11:50 PM
I'm not really sure but could you do it anonymously if you wanted to avoid some possibly embarrasing moment?

Alice The Goon
01-18-2007, 11:56 PM
AFAIK, it's quite commonplace to give money to the bereaved. After my grandfather died, a couple of years after my grandmother, I found in one of his drawers a lot of cards from when she had died, most if not all containing cash. And he was definitely not in financial need- so I assume it's a custom whether it's actually needed or not.

Harmonious Discord
01-19-2007, 06:01 AM
Most persons in this area would give $20 or $40 in the card. A few give more, and some nothing. Some people will bring over food, which is usful when it is something that can be eaten later. An amazing number of people will stop for a few days, whom are closer than just friends to the family. It's also traditional to bring over food to the after service dinner like desserts and such. Ham sandwiches and the like are normaly provided by the family. I didn't eat for 3 days until the after dinner burrial of my father, and then I couldn't stop. I didn't sleep for almost 48 hours either. Some people are well off enough to ask that any money donations are sent to a charity they have choosen. You can be short money because of the fact that a wage earner in the family has died and yoour income just halved, so money gifts help keep the family fed and such, before the estate can be settled and insurance recieved.

Please put your full address in the regestry. Things are already stressfull, it sucks when you have to call around to get the address for somebody.

Hanna
01-19-2007, 12:19 PM
When my BF's dad died in 2000 he was surprised to find many of the cards contained money. The cash in the cards just about covered the bar tab that all his dad's old friends rang up at his dad's favorite bar that we all went to after the service. He had been a regular at this place for years, so we thought going there and buying rounds for a few hours was appropriate. Of course, we had bought and paid the bar tab before we knew about the card money, but there you go.

Hanna
01-19-2007, 12:21 PM
I forgot to add - my BF's dad was retired, not married (his wife had died well before I met my BF), and both his children had been out on their own and doing well for many years. So there was no financial needs.

Missy2U
01-19-2007, 01:28 PM
This was never ever ever done in my family - and I just called my mommy and asked her just to be sure! I had never even heard of such a thing until I was with my (now) husband and there was a death in their family - he put money in a card. Who knew?

OneCentStamp
01-19-2007, 01:48 PM
When my BF's dad died in 2000 he was surprised to find many of the cards contained money.
Hell, I'm sure BF's dad was surprised to find he could still open the envelopes. ;)

SnakesCatLady
01-19-2007, 02:05 PM
I think it is a lovely idea. If only so that the family can go out to dinner instead of cooking, or maybe it will help with the funeral. Funerals are criminally expensive, which is why I am not having one!

Aangelica
01-19-2007, 02:06 PM
Speaking as someone who just had a funeral in the family (my husband's father - very unexpectedly), we got three cards out of 50 or 60 that had cash in them, but oh boy did we appreciate those three. (And a huge pile of mass cards. My FIL wasn't Catholic, but good Lord there's a lot of Catholic masses being said in his name!)

The funeral (which was bare-bones basic) ran over $7,500 - payable on the day of the ceremony in full. None of us had that kind of cash, and nobody could find documents like wills, insurance policies, etc.

I think that at times like those, people are more willing than they might otherwise be to take the gesture in the spriit you intended it, if that makes sense. If money is tight, the cash would be a welcome gesture indeed, and if it's not, then they'll almost certainly have a charity in mind to whom the donation will also be a welcome gesture indeed.

Caridwen
01-19-2007, 02:08 PM
I think it's a great idea to do. Better than buying a $75 funeral bouquet that's left at the cemetary.

delphica
01-19-2007, 02:35 PM
I think this is a regional thing, it's the normal behavior for funerals in my own experience. I didn't realize that plenty of other people don't have this practice, I didn't find out until there was a thread on the SDMB about this a few years ago.

The "rules" of how it works are a bit fluid and it's hard to describe them. If it would be difficult for you financially to give money, then there's no pressure. If there is no extraordinary pressing financial need on the part of the deceased's family, you could give the $20 or $40 that Harmonious Discord mentioned -- $20 would be fine as you are younger, and you didn't mention any special circumstances. For special circumstances, you could give more (based on what is realistic for you financially) -- let's say if there is an issue of obvious financial need, such as small orphaned children, or an elderly or disabled widow with no other means.

Some people do checks, but cash is really the way to go, because many of the expenses will be things that come up unexpectedly in the days before and just after the funeral, so the point is to have cash on hand and not be futzing around with the bank.

Foxy40
01-19-2007, 04:18 PM
Add me to the list of people that have never heard of such a thing. Unless it is a family member that you know needs money for the burial, I would think giving money is tacky. Apparently, I'd be wrong in many parts of the country.

BlueKangaroo
01-19-2007, 04:24 PM
Wow. I would never have thought to send money to the family of the deceased. Like Foxy40, I would have thought it terribly tacky.

Interesting.

Harmonious Discord
01-19-2007, 07:31 PM
In my area about 80% of the people sent some money. People my father did work for over the years sent cash in the cards, plants, and or food. He remodeled the funeral home for the owner a few years earlier, so mother didn't have to pay him until weeks later, when the insurance policies were paid out. A few hundered people walked through the night of the viewing. It made me feel better to see a large turn out like that. I enjoyed the Catholic nuns showing up at the Luthern church for the service also. I actually had a few minutes of chuckles I almost couldn't control. I started quietly laughing under stress, seeing the minister looking at the nuns and them starring back at him, was to much. :)

Caridwen
01-19-2007, 07:47 PM
Add me to the list of people that have never heard of such a thing. Unless it is a family member that you know needs money for the burial, I would think giving money is tacky. Apparently, I'd be wrong in many parts of the country.

It's done quite often around here. I prefer to do it instead of sending flowers.
Flowers here start at about $50.

My mother received a great deal of money when my father passed away. She told people not to send flowers because he was buried in a veterans cemetery and you could only bring a limited amount of flowers to the service.

My father was very involved in Habitat for Humanity and she donated the money that she received.

Lots of people have lunch or whatever after the funeral and I'm sure could even use the money for that. Plus most people don't get insurance right away and there are lots of upfront expenses with a funeral.

Full Metal Lotus
01-19-2007, 08:49 PM
It all boils down to ettiquette, and ettiquette is simply doing what is appropriate and sometimes expected.

I am not saying that people EXPECT you to send money (most anyway) upon the death of a close friend/family member, etc, but it is often appropriate.

Sending ($20-$40) to a rich family is NOT appropriate... Just send a card, and a note/recipt showing that $x was donated to a charity that supports causes that the deseased supported is a nice gesture.

If the family is in a situation in which cash should /would/could be appreciated, then by all means include some, if you can. This is a time to help out.

What I am trying to say is make it appropriate and heartfelt, and it will be appreciated.

One other ettiquette thing, with any condolence offering ( from a card on up) make it clear that the family need not (unless desired) forward a "thank You/acknowledgement, as they will have enough on their plate with out having to acknowledge things like that- and you AREN'T doing it to get a "thank You" any way, are you?

This is a time for sympathy and sensitivity

Regards

FML

jaderabbit
01-19-2007, 09:01 PM
One other ettiquette thing, with any condolence offering ( from a card on up) make it clear that the family need not (unless desired) forward a "thank You/acknowledgement, as they will have enough on their plate with out having to acknowledge things like that- and you AREN'T doing it to get a "thank You" any way, are you?

This is a time for sympathy and sensitivity


I would never expect a thank you note for something in a sympathy card. That would be just horrid.

I'm not really sure about their financial situation, so I think the best thing to do is send it with some vaguely worded thing about "use as you see fit" or "to help out with family needs or his memorial." Fair?

Caridwen
01-19-2007, 09:32 PM
Sending ($20-$40) to a rich family is NOT appropriate... Just send a card, and a note/recipt showing that $x was donated to a charity that supports causes that the deseased supported is a nice gesture.

If the family is in a situation in which cash should /would/could be appreciated, then by all means include some, if you can. This is a time to help out.

What I am trying to say is make it appropriate and heartfelt, and it will be appreciated.

One other ettiquette thing, with any condolence offering ( from a card on up) make it clear that the family need not (unless desired) forward a "thank You/acknowledgement, as they will have enough on their plate with out having to acknowledge things like that- and you AREN'T doing it to get a "thank You" any way, are you?

That's not really true. Trust me, my mother isn't a poor person and people did give money because she said she didn't want flowers. She made a donation.

I gave money to my friend when her mother died. I knew she'd be receiving a lot of flowers and would probably prefer the money. Later she told me she really appreciated it because she had so many out of town visitors she had to feed.

I would never not send a thank you card. I sent them for flowers/mass cards/cash/cookies. I've never heard of not sending a thank you card.

BrassyPhrase
01-19-2007, 10:24 PM
A beloved co-worker of mine has died, and I would like to do something for the family. <snip>

Is it appropriate to give them money? Does it become more or less weird if I attach a brief note saying something to the effect of "please use this as you see fit" or a more flowery "I hope this can help the family he loved so very much"?


Is your company doing a collection for the co-workers family? If not, you might think about suggesting one.

I've found that unless a family is pretty high on the wealthy side? Funerals, funeral expenses and all the costs associated are pretty shockingly high at a very bad time. I always give to a company fundraiser for such and have helped with a few for people that I didn't know well just b/c the situation was more dire than the normal loss.

delphica
01-19-2007, 11:44 PM
Sending ($20-$40) to a rich family is NOT appropriate... Just send a card, and a note/recipt showing that $x was donated to a charity that supports causes that the deseased supported is a nice gesture.


You know, I had always wondered about the rich family angle. I don't know any people who are rich on the scale of (for example) Bill Gates, so I wouldn't be giving him $20 anyway. I do have a friend whose mother passed recently, and their family is quite well off. This is a very close friend, and I was helping open and track the sympathy cards. Many, many people sent money ($20 and up), and I think in communities where people tend to send money, it doesn't exactly matter how rich the family is ... it's more like a traditional gesture (that was very appreciated by the family, and it was donated to the charity of their choice).

I have both sent and received thank you notes in acknowledgment of (sympathy cards, food, donations, etc) -- I thought this was fairly common, but then again, I also thought the money thing was nearly universal so what do I know? A lot of families will send a notecard with something like "from the family of (name of person)" printed on the outside, and then a personal-but-brief note on the inside.

I'd love to see a map of how the money gift tradition breaks down. I'm fairly sure it's common in the northeast and Great Lakes regions, especially among Catholics.

ZipperJJ
01-20-2007, 12:48 AM
Every single funeral I've ever been to with my family, we've given a card with money. In fact, all of the funeral homes have had boxes with slots at the top for putting cards in - cards, with money. This is in Ohio.

I thought this was a normal practice until I went to a funeral in Georgia on my own. No box - just me wandering around in a dress holding my stupid card. I had to hand it to the brother of the deceased. (Note - I was also surprised to find that everyone brings gifts to weddings in Georgia too, while people in Cleveland bring cards with money)

I went to one funeral of a man who was quite well-to-do (in Cleveland) and we gave money there as well. I don't think we (in our family) think of it as a need-based thing but more like tradition. Everyone pitches in to help the family of the deceased.

But...I've never heard of sending money with a card when not attending the funeral. I don't see how anyone would be offended, though.

Harmonious Discord
01-20-2007, 05:13 AM
The funeral homes here give the family thank you for your support or such worded cards for sending after the funeral as part of the service. I wouldn't write here's moneyfor what you need in a card. You should only write something if needed, saying here's money for the memorial fund or whatever. It makes it sound like the receiver is a loser when you say here's money for what you need.

Cub Mistress
01-20-2007, 07:31 AM
Giving money in a card at a funeral is not usually done here in Tennessee. The only time I have done it was when a friend's husband died suddenly in an accident and I knew they had no money for a funeral. Well, and when somebody's child has died, nobody is prepared for that funeral expense. Those usually have a bank account set up or I give it directly to the funeral home and fill out a donation card for the family to receive.

For my friend, I just gave her the card and cash directly and told her I knew she would be needing cash for little expenses. Among other things, she had to go buy appropriate clothes for her five children to wear at the funeral home and funeral service.

Kalhoun
01-20-2007, 08:04 AM
I've found that the answer to this question varies according to how old the person you ask is. Back in the day before it was commonplace to have life insurance, and before women worked outside the home, it was almost expected. Nowadays, not so much. The funeral home will usually have a slotted box for people to drop envelopes for the family into. My SIL who is in her 60s and rather old-school, was surprised that there weren't more monetary donations to the family at a recent funeral (can't remember which one...there've been so many). I don't believe I've ever given money to the family, as I don't know of any who needed it.

Kalhoun
01-20-2007, 08:09 AM
When our nephew was killed in an accident, my SIL set up a trust fund at a local bank for his young children. We didn't give money because the children's mother received a shitload of money from the insurance company (he was killed on the job, driving from one building to another).

UntouchedTakeaway
01-20-2007, 08:53 AM
This must be a regional thing - like the concept of "covering your plate" at a wedding reception.

I'm from the south & don't recall this tradition; my dad died in 2003 (Florida by way of NC) and I don't recall any money in cards. Ditto up here in the NE.

If someone in a friend's family died, and I knew the friend was strapped for $$$, then yes, as a friend, I would probably do this.

VCNJ~

Caridwen
01-20-2007, 11:15 AM
What would you prefer if someone in your family died?

A $50 arrangement that your going to leave in the dirt at the cemetary or the cash?

Sapo
01-20-2007, 12:42 PM
In the off chance that this is a cultural thing, I have never heard of giving money in a funeral in Venezuela or Puerto Rico.

Caridwen
01-20-2007, 01:26 PM
I don't think it's the norm, but from what I've seen and heard it is done more and more. I think people are a little more practical these days. In the case of my father, my mother should have requested donations be made to---. She said no flowers so people probably felt they should do something.

My cousin recently died unexpectantly and he was in his 30's. He had a small policy that didn't even cover the funeral. His brother and sisters had to come up with money to cover the funeral and expenses. Because she was a relative I flat out asked his sister what she'd prefer and she said money. No problem.

It makes sense. The average funeral is around $7,000 and I read somewhere that what the average survivor gets in life insurance lasts about a year. From a practical standpoint I'd much rather receive cash than I would huge flower arrangements that are being thrown on top of a dirt hole. Funerals are no longer the two or three day affairs they once were. Sometimes now the viewing and burial are held on the same day. It seems a waste to spend money on something that lasts a few hours and the relatives don't even see.

StarvingButStrong
01-20-2007, 01:54 PM
The average funeral is around $7,000


Doesn't it seem like a horrible waste?

My father's funeral cost even more than that, and my mother was talked into buying some top of the line fancy casket -- and then he was cremated. Something like $4500 for a box for him to lie in for a few hours during visitation, and then it wall just burned. (Or was it? Do they take the bodies out of the caskets for cremation? Do I really want to know?)

Anyway, there and then hubby and I decided we would have our bodies taken directly from the hospital to cremation in the temporary cardboard boxes they offer, and then we would have one of those 'celebrations of XXXs life' things instead of a funeral.

We just aren't the extravagent celebration types. We've told each other to take the money that would have gone to funeral/burying costs, wait a few months for decency sake, then spend it on nice get away.

On topic: I've never heard of sending money to the family of the deceased. Donations to Charity X in their name in lieu of flowers, but not money to the survivors.

The only exception would be helping close relatives with the costs if they needed it.

That creates more Q's than A's
01-20-2007, 02:11 PM
Money is always a poor gift.
Better no gift at all, just words.

Alice The Goon
01-20-2007, 02:23 PM
Money is always a poor gift.
Better no gift at all, just words.


Well, now, that may be your opinion, but I believe we have established that it's a regional thing. Where I grew up, in rural Michigan with a predominately German/Polish population, it is not a poor gift, it's customary.

interface2x
01-20-2007, 02:29 PM
Money is always a poor gift.
Better no gift at all, just words. I don't know - when a friend's mother died recently, I found that my words weren't going to help him out of the bind of trying to pay for the funeral and her leftover medical bills. Money worked, though. It's hard enough to lose a loved one, I didn't want him to worry about losing his car, as well.

Gary Robson
01-20-2007, 02:36 PM
I can't see how it could possibly be a bad thing. It might, however, be an unnecessary thing.

When my best friend died in a car accident some years ago, our thoughts ran more to the practical: picking his kids up from school so his wife wouldn't have to worry about it, buying a huge package of toilet paper because her house was going to be full of family, fixing the broken fence that he hadn't had a chance to fix. While his wife would have appreciated cash, she didn't need it. His life insurance paid for the funeral, paid off the house, and provided her with the equivalent of two years' income.

A funny story: We took over the toilet paper and a couple boxes of kleenex right away. As the day wore on and more people arrived, FOUR more brought toilet paper. His wife was actually laughing about it as this huge stack accumulated.

PunditLisa
01-20-2007, 03:16 PM
I can't wrap my mind around the idea of giving money at a funeral. My best friend just lost her father this very morning and I'll be attending the funeral, sending flowers, and writing sympathy cards. I won't be sending money. Not because they weren't worth it but because you can't place a value on a human being.

I'm sure the intentions are honorable here, but giving money at a funeral just seems incredibly demeaning and undignified to me.

Harmonious Discord
01-20-2007, 07:54 PM
I haven't looked at funeral items for a number of years, so the cost has gone up. You have to burry the casket in a cement valt around here. The cheapest valt was $2000 a better one $3000 and a super dupper can support a tank whithout colapsing ran $5000.

kambuckta
01-21-2007, 01:20 AM
I certainly haven't come across it in Australia.

Sometimes the family will request that mourners donate to a specified charity in lieu of sending flowers along to the funeral, but I think that giving the money to the family directly is a thoroughly splendid idea.

If they don't need the dosh, they can pass it on to the nominated charity themselves. If they DO need it, then you have probably allayed many sleepless nights as they worry themselves sick over how the hell they are going to pay for the funeral and all the trimmings.

Next funeral I go to, I'm going to bung in some money. AND tell all my friends/family about the new custom they are going to become accustomed to. :)