guide aims to help residents of Alaska plan or arrange a funeral or cremation,
understanding how local state law affects their purchasing options.
The Federal Trade Commission’s ‘funeral rule’ outlines federal legislation
that governs licensed funeral homes in the sale of funeral goods and services
and protects consumers’ rights, however, some state’s funeral boards do
have funeral legislation that supersedes federal law.
exactly what you need, and who
understands your needs implicitly, can make the whole funeral and bereavement
process so much easier to contend with.
How do you choose which funeral
home or cremation provider is right for your needs?
A funeral or cremation is often
referred to as a “distressed purchase”, and this is because it is a large,
single purchase that most people make when recently bereaved and at a time
of extreme emotional distress. For this reason, we may not make the
best decisions, and are easily swayed by those advising us.
One of the most important
aspects of arranging a funeral is to ensure you select the ‘right’ funeral
provider. Finding a funeral home or cremation provider who can cater
Too often people tend to
just go to the funeral director that they either already know of, or were
recommended to, and this may not necessarily be who is best for their needs.
Try and clearly outline what your key needs are before consulting a funeral
home. Do you want a burial, or a cremation? Is there urgency in arranging
the funeral, or do you need time to arrange for family to attend?
Does the funeral home need to be very close for visitation purposes?
Or are you happy to use the services of a funeral home further a field?
How important is the cost? Funeral expenses can vary significantly
between funeral homes, even in the same area, so shopping around can be
very important. Once you have framed a clear outline of your key
priorities and needs for a funeral, you can narrow down whom potential
suitable providers will be.
The Department of Commerce,
Community & Economic Development licenses all funeral establishments
and professionals in Alaska via the Division of Corporations, Business
and Professional Licensing. You should ensure you are dealing with
a reputable, licensed funeral home when selecting a funeral establishment.
How do I find a funeral home
or cremation provider in Alaska?
There are around 25 funeral
homes in the state of Alaska. US Funerals Online has a complete directory
of all funeral homes and cremation providers in Alaska, listed by city
in zip code order. Use the shortcut links to the main cities on the
right, or visit our directory of funeral homes in Alaska.
Do you want a burial or cremation?
As mentioned earlier, this is
probably the single most important decision that affects your funeral planning.
Deciding between burial or cremation is an entirely personal choice, either
of the deceased or the surviving family. Cremation is more popular
than burial in Alaska and the higher cremation rate can be partially attributed
to the difficulties with burial during the winter months. Cost is
also a factor in the rising cremation rate. An average burial costs
$7,045 (NFDA 2012), which doesn’t include the cost of the cemetery plot,
whereas an average cremation costs around $3,000.
What do I need to understand
about cremation laws in Alaska?
There are strict laws that govern
human cremation. Before a cremation can proceed a ‘Cremation Authorization
Form’ must be signed by the next of kin. There is also a mandatory
24-hour waiting period after a death has occurred in Alaska before the
cremation can be performed. No casket is required by law for a cremation,
all that is required is a suitable cremation container, and this is often
a simple cardboard container.
Can I arrange a ‘home funeral’
or green burial in Alaska?
Yes, it is legal to conduct
a home funeral in Alaska and there are no laws that specifically prohibit
burial on your own land, although you should check with local county zoning.
Family-directed funerals where the family manage the death care of their
loved one at home are experiencing something of a revival, especially as
it can provide a more intimate, personal and less expensive funeral option.
What is the cost of a funeral
or cremation in Alaska?
This is the question that many
people turn to the Internet to find out these days. Unfortunately,
it is the one element that many funeral homes leave out of their websites.
There is not always a simple answer, and many a funeral home will tell
you this, as they will offer a whole array of ‘a la carte’ services.
The bottom line is that a
funeral or cremation can cost you as much as you want to spend. But
more importantly, if finance is an issue, and you are concerned about how
much a funeral is going to cost you, be sure to look for fixed package
deals where you can be sure of the total price.
The National Funeral Directors
Association (NFDA) surveyed the average cost of a funeral at $7,045 in
2012. This did not include any cemetery costs. It is possible
to arrange a funeral for less than this, but the reality is that a full-service
funeral is likely to cost in the region of $10,000.
The average cremation cost
is nearer to $3,300, although a simple direct cremation can be conducted
in some areas of Alaska for around $1,500. A direct cremation is
where no ceremony or services are held before the cremation.
What help is available with
funeral expenses in Alaska?
With more and more people struggling
financially today, this is a question that is being raised more frequently.
The kind of, and level of, help with funeral expenses varies considerably
between states and even between counties. In some areas there is
county-level support for indigents, and those on welfare or low income,
to assist them meet funeral costs. This support can be extremely
minimal and may only cover a very basic direct disposition. Alaska
provides assistance to tribal members only of up to $2,500 for burial assistance.
If you are struggling to
meet funeral expenses, you may wish to consider the following: A
body donation to science – this can be a means to cover the disposition
at no cost. Read more below about donating a body to science in Alaska.
There is a one-time death benefit from the SSA of $255 for those that qualify.
You may also find it useful to read our article on What are your options
on how to pay for a funeral or cremation? It covers just about every possibility
of how you can raise funds to cover funeral expenses.
If the deceased was a veteran
or a dependent of a veteran, they are entitled to certain benefits such
as a cemetery plot and grave marker. The VA cemeteries in Fort Richardson
and Sitka have space for both casketed and cremated interments. Contact
your local VA office to find out more.
Is embalming required in Alaska?
No, embalming is not required
by law, however you may find that some funeral homes have policies that
require embalming if an open-casket service is to be conducted or if the
body is to be held in storage at their establishment for an extended period
Do not feel pressured to
have your loved one embalmed if you do not wish to. It can be important
to check a potential establishment has refrigerated storage if you are
specifically keen to avoid embalming.
What are my options for purchasing
a casket or alternative container?
In Alaska state law allows for
you to purchase a casket from a third-party seller as according to the
FTC’s funeral rule. This can make a significant saving on the cost
of a casket, and your funeral home MUST accept your casket and cannot charge
a handling fee. However, due to the impact of this rule on casket
sales for funeral homes, many are now willing to price-match a casket price
from a retailer. If you consult with a funeral home about caskets
they MUST supply you with a Casket Price List (CPL). Bear in mind
that the state law does NOT require that a casket be used for burial.
For a cremation the law requires
that a “suitable, rigid combustible container” be used. This can
be a sturdy cardboard box.
What are burial and cemetery
plot requirements in Alaska?
Firstly as mentioned above there
is no law prohibiting burial on your own land in Alaska, however, certain
local ordinances may apply and you should adhere to guidelines that require
burial to be at least 300 feet from any public water supply. It is also
suggested to avoid any power lines and any boundaries, and there must be
at least 18 inches of soil on top of the casket or coffin. It is
recommended to produce a map marking the location of any burial sites.
For burial in a designated
cemetery, there is no law that requires a burial vault, however many cemeteries
have their own regulations and many stipulate burial vaults must be used.
This is largely to protect the integrity of the land but is also a significant
way that cemeteries can make additional revenue. Because cemeteries
have quite strict regulations, it is highly recommended you thoroughly
check the ‘rules’ at any cemetery before you commit to a cemetery plot.
Regulations can affect such things as costs to open and close a grave,
the erection of a grave marker and the kind of perpetual care that is included.
been some controversy
about preneed trust funds and how safe they are, so you should carefully
consider the details and terms of any contract. Particularly such
things as how secure it is, what happens if you move or if you wish to
cancel? Do consider that an alternative is to put aside appropriate
funds in a Payable-on-death (POD) account so family can access this at
the time to cover funeral expenses.
Can I preplan a funeral or cremation?
How does Alaska state law govern preneed plans?
Yes, you can preplan a funeral
or cremation in Alaska. The state requires that only licensed funeral
establishments may sell preneed contracts, and they must obtain a special
license to sell such contracts. Preneed contracts may be funded either
through a trust fund or through an insurance policy. There has long
What are the laws for scattering
ashes in Alaska?
State law in Alaska permits
for the scattering of cremated remains on private land (with the consent
of the landowner), or cremated remains may also be scattered over any uninhabited
public land, public waterways or at sea, so long as Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) regulations and common-sense guidelines are adhered to. If
you scatter the ashes yourself, the general guidance is to scatter at least
100 yards from any road, trail, and body of water or developed facility.
It is perhaps advisable to wait a little time before scattering, just to
be sure about the decision, as it is of course irreversible. Alternatively,
choose to keep a small amount of ashes in a keepsake urn or momento.
If you wish to scatter ashes
off the coast of Alaska, you will need to notify the regional EPA office
within 30 days. Environmental Protection Agency [Region 10 – Pacific
Northwest], 1200 6th Avenue, Suite 900, Seattle, WA 98101 Phone: (206)
553-1200 or (800) 424-4372
Sea scattering must take
place three nautical miles at sea and only biodegradable flowers and containers
may be used. There are boat charter companies that depart from Homer,
Ketchikan, Kodiak and Sitka.
Are whole body donations permitted
Yes, you can donate your body
to science in Alaska. It can be a unique way to do something to help
future generations. US Funerals Online works with Medcure, a national
body donation program, who offer a service which includes free collection
of the deceased, transfer to a facility, and the return of the cremated
remains within 3 – 4 weeks. Alternatively you can contact the Biomedical
Program, WWAMI, in Anchorage on (907) 786-4789.
Do bear in mind that not
all donations are accepted at the time of death. It is preferable
to have pre-planned a donation and have completed the necessary paperwork.
There are certain restrictions on suitability for donation purposes.
What do you do if your loved
one dies away from Alaska?
Unfortunately this can happen
more often these days, as we are a more mobile society. If your loved
one dies away from Alaska, you will need to consider whether to make arrangements
to have the body transported back, or have a cremation at the place of
death and the cremated remains shipped back. You can find out more
about this on our funeral shipping section.
Where do I get a copy of a death
certificate from in Alaska?
The funeral director will generally
file for the death certificate as part of his or her services. The
death should be registered with the local registrar within 3 days and the
cremation or burial cannot proceed until the death certificate is filed.
Copies of a death certificate can be obtained from the Alaska Division
of Public Health (ADPH).
A death certificate costs
$30.00, with each additional copy charged at $25.00. There is an
additional $11.00 charge for an expedited service
What should you do if you have
a complaint about funeral services or products you have purchased?
If you should have reason to
be dissatisfied with the services or products provided to you by a licensed
funeral home in Alaska, you can make a formal complaint to:
The Alaska Department
of Commerce, Community & Economic Development,
Division of Corporations,
Business and Professional Licensing,
550 West Seventh Avenue,
Suite 1500, Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907) 269-8160.
More information is available
||Expert Author: Sara
Sara is the Editor in Chief
for US Funerals Online and has been researching and writing about the death
care industry in the US for the last 5 years.
Homes in Alaska
cremation providers in Alaska