Options in making arrangements

Note:  Almost all states honor the legal rights and documents of your home state, if death occurs while traveling in the U.S.

If you prefer to have a professional funeral director take care of the body of a deceased loved one, (click here for general price information on local funeral establishments).

If you wish to be directly involved in the after-death care of a deceased loved one, click above for a step-by-step guide to help you with that process.  Of course, each death is distinct and you should be prepared to deal with unforeseen details.

If you prefer to have a professional funeral director take care of the body of a  deceased loved one, general price information on local funeral establishments appears below.

Using a funeral home

 

 

 

Please keep in mind:  we are sharing with you our most valuable information.  Please consider supporting our efforts to make dignified affordable funerals more available to consumers by joining our organization and/or making a tax-exempt donation.

Each of the plans A, B, and C below includes funeral arrangement counseling by the cooperating funeral director.  Additionally, each plan includes filing required vital statistics, obtaining permits and filing death certificate, preparing and filing other forms and claims and preparing and sending death notice/obituary information for newspaper publication.

The plans do not include fees for certified copies of a death certificate, or for classified newspaper death notices, or for other services requested.

          Plan A:  Direct cremation without embalming, without any associated rites or ceremonies.  Plan A includes all costs for crematory services, a suitable container for the cremation process, and a simple cremains canister if the cremains are to be returned to the member’s family.  [Does this include transporting the deceased to the crematory?]
          Plan B:  Immediate burial without embalming, without any associated rites or ceremonies.  Plan B includes a simple, cloth-covered wooden or 20-gauge steel non-seal casket, a simple concrete non-seal outer burial container, and a temporary grave marker.  Plan B does not include the use of funeral home facilities for viewing or visitation, nor does it include the cost of a cemetery lot, other cemetery charges or permanent grave marker.  [Is private viewing by the family also not included?] Also see Having a More Natural Burial {link}

          Plan C:  Simple standard[???use of cemeteries is relatively new—substitute “standard” for ”traditional”???] funeral.  Plan C includes embalming, the use of the funeral home for viewing or visitation and for funeral rites or ceremonies, visitor’s register book, acknowledgement cards, the use of a hearse (casket coach [is this explanatory term necessary?]), a simple, cloth-covered wooden or 20-guage steel non-seal casket, a simple concrete non-seal outer burial container, and a temporary grave marker.  Plan C does not include the cost of a cemetery lot, other cemetery charges or permanent grave marker.  [Does this include calling for the body at the outset?  Would transport to and conducting a memorial serviced at a church be included?]

Doing it yourself
If you wish to be directly involved in the after-death care of a deceased loved one, click above for a step-by-step guide to help you with that process.  Of course, each death is distinct and you should be prepared to deal with unforeseen details.

Doing it yourself [page that comes up upon clicking]
Many individuals and families are becoming more active in the after-death care of a deceased loved one.  This is not a new idea; it is simply one that is being reintroduced to us by those who have participated or investigated this age-old option.  Its appeal is a more intimate and healing experience in the final leave-taking, to say nothing of the often dramatically reduced costs.

We appreciate your interest.  Please consider supporting our efforts to make dignified affordable funerals more available to consumers by joining our organization and/or making a tax-exempt donation.

Steps in doing it yourself      
The following is a list of general procedures for caring for your deceased loved one (when the death is not suspicious).  Pennsylvania state law does not prohibit a family member from making their own funeral arrangements.  Also see video links {link}

1.  Contact proper authorities
If the deceased is not with hospice and dies at home, call the local coroner [physician?? Medical examiner???] within approximately two hours of death.

If deceased is with hospice, call the hospice organization to notify them.  They will get the hospice director to sign the death certificate.

  • Have a death certificate completed.

A death certificate stating cause of death must be signed by a physician, a medical examiner, or a coroner. [What’s the difference between a medical examiner and a coroner?  What is the jurisdiction through which they are contacted?  Where does one get a death certificate?]

  • Register the death certificate.

The death certificate must be certified by the local [local to what?] registrar [is the title “registrar” what one looks for in the phone book?] within 96 hours of death.  After certification, local registrars send the certificate, on the third day of the following month, for filing by the Pennsylvania Division of Vital Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

If you run into any problems with a registrar who thinks only funeral directors can file a death certificate, call the Pennsylvania Division of Vital Records at 724-656-3100-3154.

  • Transport the body to your home (if necessary).

Some places where people die will not release a body to anyone other than a licensed funeral establishment because they are not familiar with the facts.  “The person in charge of interment or of removal of the dead body or fetal remains from the registration district shall file the death certificate with any registrar who shall be authorized to issue certified copies of such death.”  Chapter 35, Title 450-451.  The “person in charge” is not required to be a funeral director.  Also see #9 Transport body of loved one to crematory or burial ground {link}.

  • Make arrangements for cremation or burial.

For either burial or cremation, the local Registrar will issue the Authorization for Disposition.  The registrar will need to see the completed Death Certificate.
For cremation, you must obtain an Authorization for Cremation and Disposition form [how is one obtained? Is this one form or two?].  There is a 24-hour wait [from what point/time?] before cremation.  The crematory will file the Authorization with the Registrar [???].  [this one doesn’t need to be filed with Vital Statistics???]

Cremation is the reduction of the body to ashes and bone fragments through the application of intense heat for a period of from two to four hours.   The ashes and bone fragments may then be put through rollers to reduce them totally to ash before being placed in a canister or other container. 

For burial, the family member in charge must sign the Authorization for Disposition and file the second copy with the Division of Vital Records within ten days.  The first copy is to be retained by the cemetery or, if a home burial, by the property owner.

For standard burial, you must contact a cemetery.  Some cemeteries allow participation by the family.  If this is important to you, you must ask.  Also see Having a more natural burial {link}.

For home burial, check with the local municipality for zoning laws regarding home burial.  A local planning authority would be a logical place to start [???].  Your local sewage enforcement officer knows the distance a local septic system must be from a well so you can apply a similar distance between the well and the gravesite. 

In Pennsylvania, the top of a casket, or the body, must be two feet below the natural surface of the earth and 150 feet from a water supply.  If the death was not from a contagious disease, no state law requires a casket or vault.  If there is an outer case around the coffin, the uppermost part of the outer case must be deeper than 1.5 feet below the natural surface.  [See 28 Pa. Code 1.21 (a-b)]  Pennsylvania law prohibits burial on any land draining into a stream which furnishes any part of the water supply of a municipality unless at least one mile from the municipality.  [See Cemetery Code 9 P.S. 10]

In case of an anticipated death, be sure to walk through the entire procedure with local officials and the receiving crematory or cemetery ahead of time.  Also talk with doctors and nursing staff.  Do not to take any hesitance by municipal or hospital officials personally.  Most aren’t interested in anything other than following the law.  Having in hand legal citations such as those above may be useful. [What citations can be included/linked here?]

  • Prepare an obituary.

If you want notice of the death to the home community of the deceased or loved ones of the deceased, prepare an obituary.  Each newspaper establishes its own requirements, which may address format, topics, and fees.  Gathering the facts about your loved one will make multiple preparations easier.  You may also decide to use the facts and possible commentary in preparing any funeral or burial ceremonies or rituals.  An obituary can appear at any point after  death.

Patriot-News obituaries:  Harrisburg, (717) 255-8414 or -8119, M-F, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Weekends/Holidays, noon to 5 p.m.  {www.patriot.news.com}

  • Supply a burial or cremation container (although this may not be needed depending on the final disposition choice).

A wood or pressboard container can be purchased from a crematory.  Don’t feel uncomfortable or uncertain about this.  You can decorate and personalize an inexpensive casket in a way that is dignified and respectful, as well as vibrant and fulfilling.  Direct involvement can be an aspect of healing.

  • Prepare, shelter and care for the body.

Pennsylvania statute requires that a body be buried, embalmed, or refrigerated within 24 hours of death.  Home “refrigeration” can be accomplished with dry ice, gel packs, ice in bags, or by turning air conditioning to its lowest setting.  [legal citation?]  Also see FAQ #3 {link}

  • Create a personalized ceremony before and/or with final disposition.

A family-directed funeral is just that.  You may create your own ceremony, elaborate or simple.  You may involve many or few.  You may include singing, or dance, or video–or not.  You may also choose to have clergy participate or be in charge solely of this aspect of death care.

  • Transport body of loved one to crematory or burial ground (either with the help of a funeral director or yourself.) 

If you do this yourself, you will need a Burial Transit Permit.  This permit is issued by the local registrar of the district [clarify?] in which the death occurred.  A partially completed Certificate of Death form (top part completed) may be used to obtain the Burial Transit Permit [instead of a fully completed form? Or in what way may the death certificate “be used”???]

 

Additional resources
For more information on home and family-directed funerals see

Doing it almost yourself, with help from a funeral home
Although some would like to participate in the after-death care of a loved one, they do not want to do everything themselves.  Click above for some helpful questions to ask you local funeral director in the event that you would like to be in charge of the process, but pay a funeral establishment for individual services.

Doing it almost yourself, with help from a funeral home [page which comes up upon clicking]
The questions below can be drawn upon for personalized arrangements.

  • Have you ever worked with a family who served as its own funeral director?  If not, would you consider working with us on a per hour basis for a very limited number of services?
  • Would you be willing simply to file the paperwork on our behalf?  If so, what paperwork would be included?  How much would you charge?
  • Would you provide an immediate burial or direct cremation for my loved one after our family has cared for the deceased at home for up to three days after death?  If so, how much would you charge?
  • Because we only need assistance with X and Y, which does not use all the functions bundled into your basic services fee, would you charge us just for specific services?  If so, how much would you charge?
  • Even though we expect to handle all of the arrangements on our own, there may be unforeseen circumstances that arise.  Would you be willing to involved on an as-needed basis (e.g., if we found we couldn’t remove Mom’s wedding band, and we knew you had the right tools to cut it free).  If so, how much would you charge?
  • If we wanted to order merchandise (e.g., a cremation container), but the supplier is a wholesaler and won’t sell to a family directly, could we buy it through you if we were not using your funeral home for anything else?  If so, how much would you charge for that service?

 

The Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule sets forth clearly the information funeral providers are required to provide to you.  See the FTC’s “Complying with the Funeral Rule” {link to www.ftc.gov.}

We appreciate your interest.  Please consider supporting our efforts to make dignified affordable funerals more available to consumers by joining our organization and/or making a tax-exempt donation.

Having a more natural burial
There is growing interest in death care that is not only more frugal, but also based on the values of family, community and the natural cycle of life.  Click above for more information.

Having more natural burial [page which comes up upon clicking above]
The terms green burial, eco-friendly burial, green cemeteries, and earth burial each refer to more natural burial practices.  Typical elements are described below.  Also see traditional burial ({link to FAQ #10}

  • Forgo embalming.

Embalming {link to FAQ #4} is not required by Pennsylvania law.  Funeral Consumers Alliance of South Central Pennsylvania has no knowledge of any cemetery requiring it.

  • Select a pine box, a cardboard box, or shroud.

There are no Pennsylvania legal requirements regarding caskets.  Resistance from a particular funeral director or cemetery would be based on something other than statute. 

If a cemetery won’t let you skip the vault (non-collapsing outer burial container around the casket), you can choose a concrete grave box that has an open bottom to let the body come in contact with the earth.  You can also invert a concrete grave liner and use the lid for something else.

Click here for further information on pine boxes, cardboard boxes, or shrouds, all suitably dignified for burial of a loved one.{link to pine box, cardboard box, shroud}

“Pine” boxes

    • South Central Pennsylvania simple wood casket builders – [???]
    • To build it yourself in a limited amount of time, plans for a pine/wood casket created by Chuck Lakin, see www.lastthings.net/quick.html
    • For pine boxes see Kent Casket Industries, New York{link to www.kentcasket.com/index.htm}
    • For funeral merchandise, including pine boxes, see The Pine Box, Houston{link to  www.thepinebox.com}

Cardboard box:

  • For sturdy, appropriately-sized boxes for burial see Any Box Today {link to www.anyboxtoday.com}

Shroud:

  • Textile yardage
  • Bury on rural land or in a green cemetery.

 

To explore the concept of natural burial grounds, and some established locations, click here. 

  • Green Burial Council{www.naturalburial.coop?USA/}
  • Green Burial Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania{www.greenburialpittsburgh.org}
  • Foxfield Preserve, Ohio, first green cemetery operated by a non-profit organization{www.foxfieldpreserve.org}
  • Greenspring’s Natural Cemetery Association, Ithaca, New York{www.naturalburial.org/}
  • Ramsey Creek Preserve, South Carolina, first natural cemetery in the U.S.{www.ramseycreekpreserve.com}
  • Glendale Memorial Nature Preserve, Florida{www.glendalenaturepreserve.org}

We appreciate your interest.  Please consider supporting our efforts to make dignified affordable funerals more available to consumers by joining our organization and/or making a tax-exempt donation.

Naming a designated agent
In Pennsylvania, you are permitted to name a designated agent other than next of kin to carry out your wishes for the disposition of your body.  Click above for more information.

Naming a designated agent [Page that comes up upon clicking above]
This designation must be made before death by the person choosing the agent.  [How??}  If you are estranged from next-of-kin or were never married to your significant other, for example, the Pennsylvania designated agent law allows you to name someone other than a legal spouse or relative to carry out your wishes.  [Citation??]

By making a “statement of contrary intent” Pennsylvania residents can override the next-of-kin’s usual authority.  [Procedure??]  For example, you can designate who you want to control the disposition of your body.  [See Pa. C.S., Subsection 305]

Importance of communicating your preferences
Advance consideration of your funeral and burial preferences is a gift from you to loved ones.  You can lessen the emotional confusion and high expense often associated with caring for the deceased.  You have a broad range of after-death care options available to you.  You can choose what is personally meaningful to you, and to your loved ones. 

Importance of communicating your preferences [page that comes up upon clicking above]
You are never too young to make your wishes known.  This knowledge can make all the difference in how your survivors move through their grief.  A hard copy of your wishes should be kept in a readily accessible location with your other personal documents. 

The Funeral Consumers Alliance of South Central Pennsylvania keeps a copy of each Member[‘s] Advance Arrangements Record{link to Record form}.  At the time of death a family member or representative notifies the funeral director of record and services are performed in accordance with the documented wishes of the deceased.  If after-death care arrangements are being taken care of by the family, the FCASCP can answer questions.