If you’ve planned a funeral for a loved one, you know it’s an emotional challenge. You made some difficult decisions. If your loved one’s remains were mishandled or if the funeral home was negligent in some other way, contact a Long Island funeral home neglect attorney at once.
What is the best way to arrange for a loved one’s funeral? Who has the right to make funeral arrangements in the State of New York? How should you select a funeral home? How does this state regulate funeral homes?
If you’ll keep reading this brief guide to arranging a funeral in New York, those questions and some of your other questions about arranging a funeral will be answered. You will also learn about your family’s rights and your legal recourse if you encounter funeral home neglect.
Who Can Make Funeral Arrangements for You in New York?
Ideally, your family should designate one person to make the arrangements, to convey the family’s decisions to the funeral director, and to be responsible for payment.
New York law spells out who has the right to make the final decisions about someone’s body and funeral services. In descending order, these are the people who have the right to make funeral arrangements for you:
- someone you designate as your agent in a written legal document
- your domestic partner or spouse
- an adult child
- either parent
- an adult sibling
- a court-appointed guardian
- an adult entitled to a share of your estate (with the priority going to the closest relative)
- an appointed representative of your estate
- a close friend or relative who is reasonably familiar with your wishes
- a county official
- any other person acting on your behalf
How Can You Choose the Right Funeral Home?
By law, a licensed funeral director must oversee the final disposition of a body in New York. Choose a funeral home that makes you feel comfortable. If you do not know any funeral homes, research the topic online and by asking people you trust.
Funeral homes must provide you with their pricing options. Once you decide on a funeral home, you and the funeral director will have an arrangement conference. This could be done at the funeral home, your home, or in some instances, over the telephone or internet.
You will be given an itemized statement which, for most funeral arrangements, will include contractual language which legally obligates you to pay the cost of the funeral. This agreement is also binding on the funeral home.
How Are New York Funeral Homes Regulated?
In New York, only a licensed and registered funeral director may arrange for the care, transport, preparation, and burial or cremation of a deceased person. A funeral director will file the death certificate, transfer the body, and coordinate with the cemetery or crematory.
No matter what the funeral arrangements are, the customer always has the right to see the body, but depending on its condition or the cause of death, the funeral director may advise you against it.
Funeral directors must obtain approval from customers to embalm a body, but the home may require embalming if certain services, such as an open casket viewing, are chosen. Embalming fees must be spelled out on both the funeral home’s price list and on your itemized statement.
A funeral home may not refuse to embalm or otherwise handle your loved one’s body, regardless of the cause of death. A funeral home also may not charge extra for preparing or handling the body of someone who died of an infectious disease such as AIDS, hepatitis, or tuberculosis.
What Is Required for a Burial?
State law does not require a casket or an outer interment receptacle, but many cemeteries require a “suitable container.” State law allows the use of an unfinished wooden box or an “alternative container” made of cardboard, pressed wood, composition materials, or other material.
Even though burial vaults or grave liners are not required by law, some cemeteries require them to prevent the collapse or sinking of the grave. If you do not want to buy a burial vault, choose a cemetery that does not require vaults.
Some funeral homes offer casket rentals for viewings as an option. If you rent a casket for a viewing, you may then buy a suitable container for burial if you choose burial.
What Actions Are Illegal for Funeral Homes?
The following actions are against the law for funeral directors and funeral homes in the State of New York:
- pressuring a customer to choose particular merchandise or services
- charging an extra fee for filing the death certificate or for having it medically certified
- charging a handling fee for the payment of third parties on your behalf
- charging a fee for handling a casket provided by the customer
- charging for any merchandise or service not chosen by the customer
- misrepresenting the laws and regulations related to funeral directing
It’s illegal for anyone who is not a licensed funeral director to make arrangements, prepare the body, or supervise the burial.
It’s also illegal for a funeral home to charge interest on an outstanding balance unless the charge was disclosed when arrangements were first made and the charge is also listed on the itemized statement.
What Else Should You Know?
Have the funeral home obtain at least five to ten copies of the death certificate. You will need them for insurance companies, banks, and probate court, and you’ll need a copy of the death certificate if you are bringing any lawsuit that is linked to the decedent’s death.
It’s important to honor a decedent’s wishes if that person chose to be a tissue or organ donor.
Those who wish to be donors should contact the New York State Donor Registry, sign the donor space on the back of their licenses, include the intention to be a donor in their wills, and most importantly, inform family members.
When Should You Contact a Funeral Home Neglect Attorney?
After the funeral, if you have a problem with how the arrangements were handled, you may file a complaint with the New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Funeral Directing.
The mishandling of your loved one’s remains or any other serious violation of the law by a funeral home should be answered with a lawsuit. A New York funeral home neglect attorney will help you bring a lawsuit against a funeral home or a crematorium for any of these reasons:
- mishandling or abusing the body of your deceased loved one
- deceitful business practices
- improper cremation, mixing cremated remains with others, or losing the remains
- stealing property from the body
- burying or cremating your loved one without your consent
What Can A Lawsuit Against a Funeral Home Accomplish?
If you’ve been robbed of the funeral that you paid for because of the negligence of a funeral home or crematorium, you may seek financial and emotional damages as part of your lawsuit.
With a funeral home negligence claim, you may recover compensation for your funeral expenses and for the emotional distress you suffered because of the funeral home’s negligence.
To learn more about your family’s rights and the law, or to take legal action after a loved one’s funeral, make the call to a Long Island funeral home neglect attorney at the earliest possible opportunity.