General Funeral Questions
Most counties have an indigent burial program that is funded by state agencies. If a person dies, burial assistance may be obtained by applying to the appropriate county department. Generally, both the deceased person and the next of kin must qualify for the indigent burial program.
Can I name a designated agent other than next of kin to make decisions regarding disposition of my body after death?
In many states, you can name a designated agent for the purpose of carrying out your final wishes. Some states have a personal preference law that obligates the survivors to carry out the wishes of the dead, provided these wishes are within reason and can be carried out in a practical manner. Other states permit a person to name a designated agent to be in charge of decisions regarding disposition of the body after death. Some states will also allow a close friend to serve as next of kin if the above relatives are not available or able to serve.
Find out more on each state’s rules governing designated agents.
If you have a complaint or are otherwise dissatisfied, first try contacting the funeral home that provided the services. If you cannot resolve the matter with the funeral home, there are several organizations that may be able to help you.
Depending on the nature of your complaint, one of the following agencies may be able to assist you:
- The Funeral Consumers Alliance
- The National Funeral Directors Help Line
- The Funeral Ethics Organization
- The International Cemetery, Cremation, and Funeral Association
You may also contact your state Attorney General’s office or local consumer protection agency: http://www.usa.gov/topics/consumer.shtml
The price of a headstone will vary depending on the material, where you purchase it, and cost of time and labor to cut and engrave the stone. On average, you can expect to spend anywhere between $400 – $1700 for a granite headstone.
The law requires that a deceased person be in some kind of container during the cremation process. This can be a wood casket designed for cremation (combustible), or another eco-friendly casket. The minimal container is a cardboard box, considered an “alternative” container.
An alternative container is generally less expensive than a metal casket. It is made of unfinished wood, fiberboard, pressed wood, or composition materials, and lacks fine finish or ornamentation. Alternative containers are often chosen for cremations due to their combustible nature. Alternative containers may also be the preferred container for direct or green burials.
If hospice is involved:
Call the hospice nurse to inform him or her of the death. The nurse and the hospice agency will then legally pronounce the death, handle any necessary calls, and help with arrangements to have the body transferred to the chosen funeral home.
If hospice is not involved:
- Call 911.
- Unlock the door.
- If the patient had any out-of-hospital Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) document, have it ready to hand to the paramedics immediately when they arrive.
- Perform CPR if this is appropriate and there is no DNR document.
- Wait for further instructions from the emergency, medical, and law enforcement personnel.
If the death was expected, but the patient was not under hospice care, you will need to call 911. Both the police and the paramedics will probably respond. Paramedics will treat a “non-attended” (non-hospice) death like any other patient at risk. They do not expect ordinary citizens to be expert at determining death, and will initiate emergency medical procedures. They will probably take the person to the emergency room of the nearest hospital, where death may be officially pronounced by the emergency room doctor.
If the death was expected, and the deceased was under hospice care, do not call 911. Instead, call the hospice nurse. The hospice agency and the nurse will work together to make sure all local regulations are followed. The hospice nurse is authorized to legally pronounce the death and can assist the family to notify their funeral provider to remove the body.
A death certificate is required by law after a person dies. Two parties must complete the death certificate – a medical professional (either a physician, coroner, or medical examiner) who will certify the death by noting the cause of death, time of death and the identity of the deceased; and a licensed funeral director, who will confirm that the body was properly handled.
The funeral director then files the completed death certificate with the county health department. This document is necessary for making funeral arrangements and handling personal, financial, and legal business on behalf of the person who died and his or her estate.
A Do Not Resuscitate order, or DNR, is a medical order written by a doctor that instructs health care providers not to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if breathing stops or if the heart stops beating. It allows you to choose before an emergency occurs whether you want CPR. The order only covers CPR and does not affect other treatments, such as pain medicine, medicines, or
The doctor writes the order only after talking about it with the patient (if possible), the proxy, or family. A DNR order may be part of a hospice care plan.
Yes. In most cases, your local funeral home will be experienced in collaborating with out-of-town funeral homes and can handle the details to get your loved one home in the most efficient, cost-effective way.
No. When a terminally ill patient is receiving hospice care and dies at home, there is no need to call 911 or the doctor. The hospice agency is trained to handle death at home and will follow local regulations about notifying the required authorities in advance, so there will be no legal or medical issues. When the patient dies, instead of calling 911 or the doctor, the family should call their hospice nurse to come to the home. The hospice nurse has the authority to legally pronounce the death and can assist the family to notify their funeral provider to remove the body.
In the United States, the shipping of human or animal cremated remains can only be handled by the United States Post Office. FedEx, UPS or other carriers do not ship cremated remains. Priority Mail Express is the only current option for sending cremated remains via the USPS.
If you are considering flying with the cremated remains, you will pay the cost of your plane ticket, and depending on the airline, possibly a small fee. Most airlines will allow you to transport cremated remains, either as air cargo, or as carry-on or checked luggage (traveling with you).
You will need to check the individual airline policy regarding transport of cremated remains. The Cremation Association of North America (CANA) offers the following general guidelines for transporting cremated remains on domestic and international flights.
The cost can vary widely due to several factors. The body will usually be shipped by cargo plane, and the shipping cost is calculated according to the weight and the distance between the point of origin and the final destination.
The funeral home is legally required to make the air shipping arrangements. Shipping charges, combined with the expense of embalming and other service fees from the funeral home, may drive the cost up to several thousand dollars.
The average casket costs slightly more than $2,000. The cost of a casket could run as high as $10,000 if you choose a mahogany, bronze, or copper casket.