Commonly Asked Questions

Some Commonly Asked Questions

Who can make funeral arrangements?

The “customer.” It’s very important for family members to agree about the type of services and merchandise to be purchased. Ideally, the family should designate one person to make the arrangements and to convey the family decisions to the funeral director. The customer will be responsible for the payment of the bill.

Do I need a funeral director?

Yes. In New York State, only a licensed and registered funeral director may make funeral arrangements for the care, moving, preparation and burial or cremation of a deceased person. At the least, the funeral director will file the death certificate, transfer the body, coordinate with cemetery or crematory representatives, make the necessary preparations, and move the body to the cemetery or crematory.

Does New York State require the use of a casket or outer interment receptacle?

No, but many cemeteries do require the use of a “suitable container.” New York State law allows for the use of an unfinished wooden box or an “alternative container” made of cardboard, pressed wood, composition materials, or canvas or other material. Even though burial vaults or grave liners are not required by law, some cemeteries require them to prevent collapse or sinking of the grave. If you do not want to buy a burial vault, choose a cemetery that does not require vaults.

Is embalming required by State law?

No. In fact, a funeral director must obtain specific approval to embalm from the customer. A funeral home may, however, require embalming if certain services, such as a viewing with an open casket, are chosen. Embalming fees must be clearly stated on both the firm’s General Price List and on the Itemized Statement of Services and Merchandise Provided.

Can I see the body for the purposes of identification?

Yes. No matter what the funeral arrangements are, the customer has the right to see the body briefly. If this process is prolonged, the funeral director may consider it a viewing or visitation and a fee will be required.

What will the funeral arrangements cost?

The costs of funeral arrangements vary greatly, depending on the funeral home and on the type of service and merchandise you choose. For example, if the service you select involves viewing the remains, the funeral home may require embalming and preparation of the body, which can be expensive. Also, there is a tremendous range in the price of caskets, depending on style, type of wood, lining, etc. The least expensive type of funeral service is direct burial or direct cremation.

If I choose a direct burial, can the funeral home charge for a graveside service?

A direct burial includes a graveside ceremony if the customer wants it. The price for the ceremony, excluding cash advances, must be included in the fee for a direct burial. However, if the service requires staff in addition to the funeral director supervising the burial, an additional charge may be added. If so, this charge must be clearly listed on both the General Price List and the Itemized Statement of Services.

Does the New York State Department of Health set the charges?

No. While the Department of Health regulates the business and practice of funeral homes, it does not regulate prices.

What can I do if I feel the prices are too high?

You can call several funeral homes and compare prices. (Funeral homes are required to give price information over the telephone.) If you’ve shopped around and the price is still too high, you may have to reconsider your selections.

Can I rent a casket for a viewing?

Possibly. Casket rentals are not prohibited and some funeral homes offer this option. If a funeral home offers rental caskets, it must be stated on the General Price List. If you rent a casket for a viewing, you can then buy a suitable container for burial, if you choose burial.

Can the funeral director criticize my selections?

No. It is illegal for funeral home staff to state or imply that any merchandise they offer for sale is unsatisfactory in any way.

REMEMBER:
You do not have to accept services or merchandise you don’t want!

You must be informed of all charges in advance!

Always get a receipt!

Do I need more than one copy of the death certificate?

Probably. You will need to give certified copies to insurance companies, banks, etc. The funeral home may obtain them for you. They cannot charge you more than the actual fee, which is up to $15 in New York City and $10 (or less) in the rest of New York State. Death certificates are filed by the funeral director with the registrar of Vital Records in the locality where the death occurred.

Can I prepay my funeral?

Yes. Prepayment can lift much of the financial burden from your survivors. It also allows you to select the type of funeral arrangements you want. Pre-need plans are regulated by law. For more information, read the New York State Health Department’s publication “Before Prepaying Your Funeral, Know Your Rights.”

Can the funeral home change arrangements without my permission?

No. The funeral director must obtain your approval before making any substitutions or changes.

What if the deceased wanted to donate organs?

It is important to honor the wishes of people who want to donate all or part of their bodies upon death. Those who want to be donors should carry organ donor cards, sign the donor space on the back of their licenses, include their wishes in their wills, and inform family members. For more information on organ donation, call 1-800-24-DONOR (1-800-243-6667).

What if I decide to change funeral homes?

You have the right to change funeral homes at any time. You will need to pay for any services that have already been done (for which you had given approval). The funeral home must allow the transfer of the body to another funeral home, even if you haven’t paid yet. It may not hold the body in exchange for payment.

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