guide from US Funerals Online aims to explain some of the main things you
need to know if you are planning a funeral or cremation in Massachusetts.
Funeral legislation does actually vary somewhat state-by-state due to local
licensing laws, so we have attempted to give you a basic overview of how
Massachusetts’s funeral legislation affects you as a consumer when purchasing
funeral products and services.
How do you choose which funeral
home or cremation provider is right for your needs?
This is probably the most important
aspect of arranging a funeral or cremation, ensuring you select the right
service provider for your needs. This can be quite daunting though,
especially if you have no recommendations from family or friends.
There are around 970 funeral homes and crematories in Massachusetts, so
it can help to have some criteria to narrow your selection down.
Are you looking for traditional or modern services? Do you require
burial or cremation? Is your budget and the costs of the funeral an important
aspect of selecting a provider? Once you have a clear outline of what your
specific needs are, it can be easier to shortlist funeral providers who
fit your needs.
How do I find a funeral home
or cremation provider in Massachusetts?
You can use a directory, such
as US Funerals Online, which lists all funeral homes and cremation providers
by city in zip code order. There are other online directories you
can use, but just be aware that many directories charge a fee for inclusion
or to feature certain providers at the top of the results; and results
are not always arranged in zip code order. It is wise to shortlist
2-3 funeral providers and either make calls, or visit, to establish whether
they can meet your needs.
If the cost of funeral expenses
is an important factor in your selection, you may wish to visit DFS
Memorials and locate your nearest low cost funeral and cremation and
provider. Each member of the DFS Memorials network offers a basic
cremation for between $495 and $1,395.
Do you want a burial or cremation?
This is the first question that
a funeral director will ask you, and the most significant decision to be
made to determine what kind of funeral service you require. If the
deceased has not expressed a preference, or left instructions, then you
must make this decision. It should be made entirely by personal and
family choice. Burial has traditionally been more common, although
cremation is fast becoming a preferred choice and now accounts for almost
35% of all dispositions in Massachusetts. A cremation can prove far
less expensive than a burial, an influencing factor for many today who
opt for cremation.
Can I arrange a ‘home funeral’
or green burial in Massachusetts?
Yes, the laws in Massachusetts
do allow for you to conduct your own funeral services and you do not legally
have to employ a funeral director if you desire not to. A home funeral
or family-directed funeral is one where the family conducts all care and
preparation of their lost loved one, and transports he or she to the cemetery
or crematory for disposition.
A green burial, or natural
burial, is when no embalming, metal casket or concrete grave liner is used.
In some ways it can be considered returning to a more organic and natural
method of disposition, as was the ‘norm’ centuries ago. There is
a very informative resource available from the Funeral Consumers Alliance
of Western Massachusetts that outlines green burial cemeteries in the state
What is the cost of a funeral
or cremation in Massachusetts?
Prices for a cremation or a
burial do vary by area and by funeral home, so it can be quite difficult
to quote a general price for services. The National Association of
Funeral Directors quote the average price of a funeral today at $7,755
(NFDA 2012), although this does not include cemetery costs. How much
a funeral costs is rather like how long is a piece of string? It
depends on what basic and ancillary services you enlist of your funeral
director, and what minimal or elaborate funeral products you select.
A very simple cremation can be conducted for around $1,400. Do check
out the DFS Memorials providers for Massachusetts if you are particularly
concerned about keeping funeral costs low.
Funeral legislation dictates
that you must be shown a general price list (GPL) breaking down any, and
all, services that you are offered with a total price before you sign any
funeral services contract. If you are purchasing a casket, or burial
container, from your chosen funeral home, you must also be provided with
a Casket and Burial Container price list.
Sending funeral flowers in Massachusetts
Flowers are considered an integral
part of funerals, yet many are cutting back on funeral flowers to save
money on their overall funeral expenses. The average funeral flower
arrangement can start at around $60.00, with casket sprays costing up to
$700.00. If you wish to send funeral flowers in Massachusetts, US
Funerals Online has partnered with BloomsToday to offer our visitors a
25% discount on funeral flower purchases.
Is embalming required in Massachusetts?
No, embalming is not required
by law in Massachusetts. Some funeral homes may recommend embalming should
you request a viewing or if the funeral is to be postponed for some considerable
time. A body can be adequately stored in a refrigerated unit, so
do not feel pressurized to undertake embalming of your loved one if you
do not wish to.
purchased for around $995.
It is also legal to rent a casket for the purpose of a funeral service
and then use an alternative container for the burial or cremation. For
a cremation in Massachusetts regulations require that the body be placed
in a "suitable container" (M.G.L. c.114, s. 44A) and this container may
be a plywood or strong cardboard box. No casket is legally required
for a burial, although cemeteries may stipulate their own regulations.
What are my options for purchasing
a casket or alternative container?
The introduction of the Federal
Trade Commission’s ‘funeral rule’ means that you have the right to purchase
a casket from elsewhere than your funeral home if you wish to. For
some years consumers have been saving money by purchasing a casket from
a third-party casket retailer. Your funeral home MUST accept your
purchased casket and cannot charge you a handling surcharge. However,
the impact of discounted retail casket sales and the increase in cremation
rates, has prompted many funeral homes to now price-match third-party casket
prices. A basic standard casket can be
How to arrange a cremation in
A cremation can only be performed
after the required 48-hour period has elapsed. It must be conducted
at a licensed crematory and the required authorization and cremation permits
must be obtained. You can arrange your own cremation directly with
a crematory, however, the deceased must be transported to the crematory
in a vehicle licensed for this purpose. For this reason, families
usually employ a funeral director to collect the body and handle the refrigerated
storage for the 48-hour period required. Cremated remains or ashes
are returned to the family after the cremation process, and can be interred,
kept in an urn, or scattered.
What are burial and cemetery
plot requirements in Massachusetts?
The Board of Health regulates
public and private burial grounds. Public cemeteries each have their
own governing regulations, which will typically stipulate requirements
you will need to observe when interring your loved one’s remains.
Although a casket is not required by law, cemeteries may stipulate that
an outer burial container is used to prevent subsidence. Similarly,
certain rules may be in place that affect what type of monument you can
erect and what period of time may elapse after burial before a grave marker
can be erected. It is wise to thoroughly review a cemetery’s regulations
before committing to a plot.
Can I preplan a funeral or cremation?
How does Massachusetts state law govern preneed plans?
Yes, you can preplan a funeral
or cremation in Massachusetts. In fact it is a good way to ensure your
wishes are observed and the finances are earmarked. These days with
more people struggling to make their retirement savings last through their
senior care years, it can be a means to ensure you have allocated funds
for death care. Funds put into a funeral insurance plan are not taken
into account when you are means-assessed for aid.
In Massachusetts only licensed
funeral directors can sell preneed contracts. These contracts can
be funded by a trust fund or an insurance policy. You should revisit
and revise your contract every few years to ensure it still fully meets
your needs. Do consider that funeral prices can, and are, changing
quite significantly right now. In fact, more affordable options are
coming on the market daily. Do make sure that family are aware that
you have a plan, and where the details of it are kept.
The other option is to set
up a payable-on-death (POD) account, otherwise known as a Totten Trust.
You can deposit the funds required to cover your funeral expenses and make
a member of your family the beneficiary who can withdraw the funds on your
death. A benefit of this kind of trust is that it does not have to
go through probate.
What are the laws for scattering
ashes in Massachusetts?
There are no specific laws on
ash scattering in Massachusetts, much like many other states in the US.
Cremated remains are basically sterile, organic matter and therefore of
no harm to the environment. Common sense should prevail and you should
follow guidelines for the scattering of ashes as we have outlined in our
ash scattering section.
If you wish to scatter ashes
off Cape Cod, in Nantucket Sound or at sea, you need to observe Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines. This requires that remains be
scattered 3 miles off the coast. Massachusetts is in region 1 of
the EPA and the New England department can be contacted on (888) 372-7341.
An ash scattering sea burial
costs around $500, depending on the service selected and whether you opt
for an attended burial.
MassHealth funeral and the funeral
director will then bill the DTA. The deceased’s family must pay the
remaining $400 to the funeral home.
What help is available with
funeral expenses in Massachusetts?
For indigent residents of Massachusetts
the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) pays for
part of the cost of a funeral for MassHealth (Medicaid) members and other
low-income, financially qualified individuals. The DTA will pay up to $1,100
for funeral expenses that do not exceed $1,500. You must inform your
chosen funeral director that you are claiming a Medicaid or
There is also a $255 lump-sum
death benefit that is payable from Social Security for those that qualify,
and there are benefits for veterans and the veteran’s spouses and certain
dependents. Interment at a VA cemetery is free, as is the grave marker,
and a US flag. The VA cemetery is at Bourne and still offers both
casketed and cremated remains interment. There are also state-run
VA cemeteries at Agawam and Winchendon. Contact your local VA office
for more information.
Are whole body donations permitted
Yes, you can bequeath your body
to science in the state of Massachusetts. This means your body is
used for medical research and anatomy teaching. There are four educational
institutions in Massachusetts that offer a body donation program.
The requirements for donation differ for each school, so you will need
to check with the institution directly. US Funerals Online also works
in partnership with Biogift.org that offers a body donation program nationwide.
They offer a complete service, which includes the return of the deceased’s
cremated remains within 3 – 4 weeks.
The institutions offering
whole body donation programs in Massachusetts are: Harvard Medical School,
University of Massachusetts Medical School, Tufts University School of
Medicine and Boston University School of Medicine.
What do you do if your loved
one dies away from Massachusetts, or you wish to repatriate the deceased
to their home country?
This unfortunately happens more
often these days as people travel more. To transport a body internationally,
or domestically, can add a significant cost to your overall funeral expenses.
However, a funeral director experienced in funeral shipping can arrange
everything for you. To read further about funeral shipping, how to arrange
it and what it costs, visit our funeral shipping section.
How to obtain a copy of a death
certificate in Massachusetts?
A copy of a death certificate
can be obtained from the Office of Vital Records and Statistics (OVR).
You can obtain copies either in person, by mail or online. Copies obtained
over the counter cost $18.00, and by mail a copy is charged at $28.00.
Online certificated copies of a death certificate can be ordered online
via Vitalchek. The first copy costs $45.00 with further copies being
charged at $37.00.
The Registry of Vital Records
and Statistics office is located at:
150 Mt. Vernon Street, 1
Dorchester, MA 02125-3105
What should you do if you have
a complaint about funeral services or products you have purchased?
If you should feel that you
have a grievance or complaint about a licensed funeral establishment in
Massachusetts, you can contact the Division of Professional Licensure (DPL),
which is the agency within the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business
Regulation that licenses funeral homes.
DPL, 1000 Washington Street,
Suite 710, Boston, Massachusetts, 02118 (617) 727-7406
There are a couple of consumer
groups that aim to educate and support local people about their rights
and options in the purchase of funeral products and services. You
can contact the groups below for further local information:
Funeral Consumers Alliance
of Eastern Massachusetts (FCAEM), 66 Marlborough Street
Boston, MA 02116 Phone (617)
Funeral Consumers Alliance
of Western Massachusetts (FCAWM), P. O. Box 994, Greenfield, MA 01302-0994
Phone (413) 774-2320
||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 Massachusettes
Memorials - Massachusetts
Last Revised 10/04/2013