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Planning Basics

When you are planning funerals and death care,there are mandatory and optional activities:

  (1) MANDATORYDealing with the body. Called "disposition of the remains," this activity is regulated by Health and Safety codes,

  (2) OPTIONAL: Everything else is OPTIONAL: funerals, memorial services, ash-scattering, obituaries, etc.

Mandatory Activities
Regulatory paperwork.  In California, this consists of a death certificate and a disposition permit, and if you want to be cremated, a Declaration for Disposition of Cremated Remains.

Handling and transportation of the body.  This involves moving the body from the place of death to the place of  final disposition.  It may include temporary storage. Handling and transportation is usually done by a mortuary (funeral home) but it may be done by the family with a disposition. A disposition permit is required to deliver the body to a cemetery or crematory.

Disposition of the body, either by burial, cremation or body-donation to a qualified institution for research.  For veterans, the Navy provides a Burial at Sea program 

Paying for all of the above.  There are fees associated to the regulatory paperwork.  You must pay the funeral director or home funeral consultant for their services to you. You must pay for cremation or for a cemetery plot.  If the Cororner is involved, you may have to pay for body bags, removal (transportation) fees and per-day storage charges.  You may have to pay for transportation to the research institute where the body is donated.  Here is a link with some information for obtaining assistance to help pay for some of these expenses.



Optional Activities

Other than the above, everything else is optional.  This may include:

  • Autopsy:  autopsies may be required depending on the circumstances of death and the ruling of the coroner.  Families can also request autopsies. Autopsies may be avoided if a Certificate of Religious Belief is prepared in advance, as authorized by California Government Code 27491.43 (scroll down to see section section .43).
  • Funerals, memorial services
  • Graveside services
  • Obituaries
  • Hearses, corteges, pall bearers
  • Flowers, music
  • Caskets, coffins, urns for ashes.  Note that coffins or burial/cremation containers may be required by the cemetery or crematory, but are not a legal requirement in California.

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