Who can make funeral arrangements?

New York State Public Health Law specifically identifies who is considered the legal next-of-kin when arranging for funeral services. Recent revisions to the law have clarified the importance of family members coming to a majority-agreement about the type of services and merchandise to be purchased if no pre-arranged or pre-funded funeral agreement is in place. While some legal documentation does specifically require a single individual to be named as informant, all family members with the same degree of kinship share in the decision making process. Ideally, the family should designate one person to convey family decisions to the funeral director. Prior to their passing, an individual may appoint a specific person to carry out their wishes, even if that person is not within their bloodline or posses any degree of kinship.

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, preparation, transportation, and burial or cremation of a deceased person. At the least, the funeral director will be responsible for the transfer of the deceased, filing of the death certificate, coordinating with cemetery or crematory representatives, making the necessary preparations for disposition, and transporting the deceased to the cemetery or crematory.

Can you recommend a funeral home?

No. The Nassau-Suffolk Funeral Directors Association does not endorse any particular firm. Consumers are encouraged to call or visit the funeral home of their choosing to discuss that firm’s services and pricing.

Does New York State require the use of a casket or vault?

No. New York State does not require the use of a casket or outer burial container. Individual cemeteries however may specify the minimum suitable container for interment within their grounds. New York State does allow the use of an unfinished wooden box or an “alternative container” made of carboard, pressed wood, composite materials, canvas or other materials. Even though burial vaults or grave liners are not required by law, some cemeteries will require them to prevent collapse or sinking of the grave. If you do not want to buy a burial vault, choose a cemetery or a grave that does not require vaults.

Is embalming require by New York State law?

No. In fact funeral directors must obtain specific approval to embalm from the customer. A funeral firm may, however, require embalming if certain services, such as a viewing with an open casket, are chosen. Embalming authorization can be accepted verbally, and no signature is required to approve of the service. Embalming fees must be clearly stated on both the firms General Price List and on the Itemized Statement of Services and Merchandise provided.

Can I see the body for purposes of identification?

Yes. Even for immediate burial or immediate cremation, the customer has the right to see the body briefly for the purpose of identification. The funeral director may limit the amount of time or number of individuals who are permitted to perform the identification and if the process is prolonged or includes elements of a ceremony may consider it a viewing or visitation and can impose a fee.

What do funeral arrangements cost?

The cost of funeral arrangements vary greatly, depending on the funeral firm and on the type of services or merchandise you select. For example, if the service you select involves viewing the remains, the funeral firm may require embalming and preparation of the body, which can add expenses. Also, there is a tremendous range in the pricing of caskets, depending on the style, type of material (wood or metal) finish, trimming, etc. The least expensive type of funeral service is often a direct burial or direct cremation.

Is there a set of standard prices firms have to go by?

There is no price regulation in the funeral industry. Consumers are encouraged to solicit pricing from multiple funeral firms to find one they are comfortable working with.

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

Consumers are encouraged to solicit pricing from multiple funeral firms and compare pricing. Funeral firms are required to give price information over the telephone but are not required to transmit pricing by email or fax. If you’ve shopped around and the price is still to 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 firm offers rental caskets, it must be stated on their General Price List. If you rent a casket for a viewing, you may be required to buy a second suitable container for burial or cremation. It is not uncommon to encounter other charges when using a rental casket, such as the purchase of a liner or insert, or additional casketing charges.

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 however funeral directors are not responsible for deciding which, if any, organs are suitable for donation. It is not uncommon for donors who are elderly, ill, or medicated for chronic illness to be rejected from organ donation. Those who want to be donors should carry organ donor cards or sign the space on the back of their license or state identification, include their wishes in their pre-arrangement documentation, and inform family members. For more information on organ donation, call 1-866-NY-DONOR (1-866-693-6667)

What if I decide to change funeral firms?

You have the right to change funeral firms at any time. You will need to pay for any services that have already been performed. Some documentation for burial or cremation will include the funeral firm’s information and may need to be amended prior to being able to carry out burial or cremation arrangements. This process may also incur additional fees from local registrars for the reissuance of permits or certified death certificates. Funeral homes may not hold the body in exchange for payment, however it is customary that the newly-selected funeral firm settle any charges when performing the transfer of remains. These charges may be included as cash-advances on the Itemized Statement of Services and Merchandise.

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

Probably. You will need to present certified copies to insurance companies, banks, some utility companies, as well as for the transfer of some property such as vehicles or real estate. The funeral home may obtain certified copies for you at the time of arrangements and for a period of up to six months following the death. Beyond six months, you will need to contact the registrar of vital records in the locality where the death occurred.

Where can I obtain additional copies of the death certificate?

Certified copies of the death certificate are issued by the registrar of vital records in the locality where the death occurred.

For deaths that occurred within the five boroughs of NYC, contact the NYC Office of Vital Records by either calling 311 (within NYC), (212) 788-4545 or you may visit http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/services/vr.shtml

For deaths that occurred outside of NYC you may also try contacting the New York State Department of Health Division of Vital Records at *855) 322-1022 or visit https://www.health.ny.gov/vital_records/death.htm

Who is responsible for regulating funeral firms?

The licensing and registration of funeral directors and funeral firms, as well as the regulation of funeral directing within New York State is conducted by the New York State Department of Health Bureau of Funeral Directing.

Bureau of Funeral Directing
875 Central Avenue
Albany, NY 12206
Phone: (518) 402-0785
Email: funeral@health.ny.gov