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    Is It Legal For You To Transport A Deceased Family Member? -- plus -- What's Better? Film Or Digital Photos -- plus -- Ben's Tips On Selecting A Photographer -- plus -- How Long Will Interest Rates Stay This Low?
    October 11, 2001

    Dear Ben: Are there any laws to prevent two adults from transporting a family member's body across the state in the back of an enclosed pick-up camper. The body's embalmed and in a casket; we need to transport from Lubbock to Lufkin.

    Jodie, via e-mail

    Dear Jodie: It seems like there's a form for everything; you're smart checking this out ahead of time, because my experts tell me there's two forms that will insure unmolested transit of the body. Jim Bates from the Funeral Consumers Alliance of North Texas (FCANT) transported his mother from Fort Worth to Tulia (Texas) last year: "You must have in your possession Form VS-115: Report of Death issued by the Texas Department of Health. This form is completed and signed off by the funeral director that handles the embalming of the body; it should be free of charge, by the way." And the FCANT's Executive Director, Pierson Ralph adds: "The family should also contact the Medical Examiner's office (or Justice of the Peace in counties that do not have a Medical Examiner) to obtain a Burial Transit Permit. Consumers can get more information by obtaining a [free] pamphlet printed by the Texas Funeral Service Commission entitled "Facts About Funerals–Consumer Information" available at any funeral home." Since I'm a huge proponent of educating consumers about their rights when it comes to dealing with the funeral/cemetery industries, you can find a wealth of information on my website (and get informed before you're in a position of dire need):

    Dear Ben: I saw one of your segments on Good Morning Texas/Channel 8 recently about having family photos taken and I wasn't clear: Should we try to find a photographer that shoots using traditional film or someone that uses the new digital cameras? What's the difference? Why should we care? Isn't digital cheaper? Isn't it easier for the photographer to digitally change the photos if it's shot in that format?

    C.J. in Fort Worth

    Dear C.J: It depends. Are you shooting indoors or out? How big do you print your favorite final photo? How quick do you want to take a look at your pictures to being choosing the actual photos you'll buy? There are so many variables nowadays, but rule of thumb: I think you'll find almost all professional photographers will shoot traditional film outdoors, but have the flexibility of shooting either film or digital indoors/in a studio setting. According to
    Till Hezel of Smiley's Studio in Fort Worth: "With digital photography I can literally pop a diskette out of my camera and into the computer and show my clients their pictures on the spot. No wait time to send film to the lab to be developed...but without question, film [so far] will always deliver the clearest pictures...for now, anyway." As far as digitally enhancing a photo, Till says it doesn't matter what format the photo: "Although we can instantly manipulate/re-touch a photo that's been taken in the digital format, digitizing a traditional, film-based picture is pretty simple. And the end result? We can always guarantee a final [photo] product the customer will love!" Want more tips on making the best choices in the world of photography? Here you go:

    Dose of Dover For The Week: I've gotten many e-mails similar this one from Kelli wanting to know about the future of interest rates: "I'm getting married in December but hope to be in a position to buy a house this time next year. But will interest rates be as low as they are now, about this time next year? We're not in a financially sound position to try and buy one right now."

    As I've said before, if I could predict interest rates, I'd be a retired billionaire looking to buy a professional sports franchise. Seriously: Nobody can guess, especially in today's uncertain business climate, what next year will bring. However, the Federal Reserve is doing its best to stimulate the economy by slashing interest rates to their lowest level since 1962. If consumers can use this as an incentive to get solid financially so they'll be in a position to take the home ownership plunge, my guess is that interest rates should continue to remain low through at least next Spring.
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