Funeral & Cemetery Contracts 

Funeral and cemetery arrangements can be costly and stressful. The average price of a funeral in New York is $10,000. New York law requires a registered and licensed funeral director carry out funeral arrangements. There are certain federal and state laws that protect you during the process. You should research your options and gather as much information as possible. Your family should also choose one or two people to handle the funeral arrangements. This will avoid confusion and extra expenses.

Under federal law, funeral homes must meet certain requirements. Funeral homes:

  • Must give you an itemized price list upon request.
  • Must give you a written statement of any items purchased with the itemized price list.
  • Must inform you of any less costly alternatives.
  • Can charge a basic services fee, but if you choose to buy goods from a third party, the funeral home cannot charge extra fees related to those goods.
  • Cannot charge for embalming – which is not required by law – unless it has the family’s permission.

New York State law provides even more protection. Funeral homes:

  • Cannot pressure you to buy certain goods or services.
  • Cannot comment on the choices you make for your loved one.
  • Cannot require you to use a casket, but some cemeteries require a suitable container for the body.
  • Cannot charge a fee for obtaining a death certificate. If you want a death certificate, you can get it from the New York State Department of Health (if you are outside of New York City) or from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (if you are in New York City). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person ordering of death certificates in NYC is suspended until further notice. At this time, you can order a death certificate online or by mailing a copy of the death certificate application. You should get several copies of the death certificate.

There are ways to avoid the cost of funerals and burial ceremonies. You could choose a direct burial with a graveside service at the cemetery. New York allows burials on private land, however, you should check with the town or county clerk to confirm if there are any local rules that must be followed. Cremation can also reduce the cost of a funeral. If the deceased has agreed to donate their body to science, you can avoid funeral and burial expenses.

If you have a complaint about a funeral home in New York, you can complain to the New York State Department of Health.

Legal Editors: Mark Grossman, Esq. and Edward E. Klein, Esq., May 2018 (updated May 2020)

Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service with the help and assistance of volunteer legal editors, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or to substitute for the advice of a lawyer.

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