Arranging a Funeral or Cremation in New York



Arranging a Funeral or Cremation in New York

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The end-of-life process is still something that is little discussed in our culture until the need arises, and then we are faced with a sometimes-overwhelming task.  This article aims to give you an overview of the process of arranging a funeral in New York State and help direct you in where to start.

There are some 1700 funeral homes and mortuaries in New York, and in the region of some 600 cemeteries, crematories, and Memorial Parks.

New York is ranked as the third most populated state in the United States, with New York City as the largest metro area in the U.S, with a population of around 8 million.  There are 62 major cities in New York, and the state is often divided into 8 major regions – North Country New York, Western New York, Central New York, Capital District, Southern Tier, Hudson Valley, New York City and Long Island.

This can mean that locating a funeral home in New York can be a daunting task.  Apart from the numerous funeral directories, there are useful consumer information resource sites that try and guide you through the process of arranging a funeral in New York.

New York State Department of Health provides a helpful consumer guide, and many of the important aspects of legislation about funerals, cremations and the disposition of human remains are included here.

The New York State Funeral Directors Association also provides consumers with information to help you choose a funeral home and make end-of-life decisions.

Funeral Costs in New York

The average price of a funeral in New York these days can amount to in excess of $8,000, and this can be a complete financial burden to those arranging a funeral service if no pre-planning for funeral expenses were in place.  This cost does not take into account cemetery plot costs.  The purchase of a cemetery plot or grave space in New York can vary significantly depending upon the area.  Cemetery plots in and around New York City can be excessively expensive due to the premium of available green space.  An option is to consider the purchase of a cemetery plot being re-sold by someone who had

New York Funeral and Cremation Planning
purchased a plot but no longer requires it.  You are required to have a cemetery deed, which is the document that determines your legal right to the cemetery plot.
This means that a traditional funeral service involving a burial in New York can amount to a cost in excess of $10,000.  However, more affordable funeral options are available and cremation is fast becoming a preferred means of disposition to those working on a budget, or choosing not to opt for a traditional burial.  A basic cremation in New York can start from as little as $700 if no service is performed.

All funeral homes in New York are required by law to provide you with a General Price List that clearly lists the prices for all their services.  A funeral home should provide you with information about all the services available to you, but at no time should pressure you into a sale.

Disposition Arrangements in New York 

In New York State only a registered, licensed funeral director can carry out funeral arrangements for the death care of a deceased person.  The funeral director will file the death certificate and make the necessary arrangements, in accordance with family wishes, for the disposition of the deceased. 

Who Can Authorize a Cremation or Burial in New York

State law designates that an “agent” appointed to control the disposition of remains by written instrument has priority to control the disposition.  After that the priority is given to:

  • Surviving spouse
  • Domestic partner
  • Any of the decedent's surviving children over the age of 18
  • Either of the decedent's parents
  • Any of the decedent's surviving siblings (brothers or sisters) over the age of 18
  • A guardian appointed pursuant to Article 17 or Article 17-a of the Surrogate's Court Procedure Act (SCPA) or Article 81 of the Mental Hygiene Law
  • Person 18 years or older now eligible to receive an estate distribution, in the following order:

  • - Grandchildren
    - Great-grandchildren
    - Nieces and nephews
    - Grand-nieces and grand-nephews
    - Grandparents
    - Aunts and uncles
    - First cousins
    - Great-grandchildren of Grandparents
    - Second cousins
  • The duly appointed fiduciary of the decedent's estate
  • Close friend or other relative who is reasonably familiar with the decedent's wishes, including his or her religious or moral beliefs, when no one higher on the list is available, willing, or competent to act; (Note: This person must complete an "At-Need Written Statement of Person Having the Right to Control Disposition" form)
  • Public Administrator
With the increase in the divorce rate and the growing number of second marriages and stepchildren, the benefit of appointing an agent is to ensure that your disposition wishes are carried out without any family disagreements.

Prepayment Funeral Plans in New York

Preplanning and prepaying a funeral can enable you to take the financial burden from surviving family and also ensure your own wishes are clearly met.  State law regulates pre-need funeral plans in New York.  For further information visit ‘Before Prepaying Your Funeral, Know Your Rights’ on the New York State Department of Health’s web site.

Death Certificates in New York

The funeral home will usually obtain the necessary death certificates for you as part of their services.  They can only charge you the actual fee, which is $15 in New York City and $10 or less in the rest of New York State.  You will need certified copies to formally register the death of the deceased with government institutions, banks and insurance companies, etc.

Embalming in New York

A body does not have to be embalmed according to New York State law.  However, some funeral homes will stipulate that embalming is required dependent on certain services.  For example if an open casket viewing or service is performed, or if a body is being transported across state lines.

Buying urns and caskets in New York  Caskets in New York

You do NOT have to use a casket according to New York State legislation.  You DO require a “suitable container”, and the law allows for this to be an unfinished wooden box or “alternative container” made from other composition materials, canvas, cardboard or pressed wood.  Although grave liners and/or burial vaults are NOT required by state law, some New York cemeteries do stipulate that they require them to prevent the ground sinking around a cemetery plot.  It is strongly advised that you check a cemetery’s requirements before committing to purchase a cemetery plot.

Jewish Funerals in New York

There are a number of funeral homes in New York that offer Jewish Funeral Services and follow Jewish customs and rituals.

When a Death Occurs Outside of New York

If a loved one dies away from his/her home in New York, then you may need to arrange to have the body collected and returned to New York for disposition.  This can mean liaising with two funeral homes, or you may find that your local funeral home in New York will be able to coordinate the transfer of remains for you.  Visit our page on Funeral Shipping for more information on domestic and international transfers.  Ground transportation can also be an option if the deceased is within the U.S.  In many cases it is often easier and more cost-effective to arrange a cremation wherever your loved one died and then transport the ashes back to New York.

Whole Body Donation in New York

Donating your body to medical science has been an end-of-life choice around for some time now, however, it has certainly gained more popularity in recent times.  For many it now seems a valuable disposition method hence why it is commonly referred to as an “anatomical gift”. is a national organization that offers an anatomical gift program whereby you can donate your body to science and the benefit of future generations.  They arrange the collection of the deceased, medical donation, cremation of remains and return of cremains to the family usually at no charge.  There are also a number of Universities and Medical Schools in New York that operate whole body donation programs.

Cremations in New York

Cremation is growing in popularity in the U.S., largely as it proves much more affordable than a traditional burial.  A cremation can be carried out in New York State from as little as $700.  The price of a cremation does vary depending on the local area, and the crematory fee.  A cremation can be a simple disposition with no service, the ashes returned to the family, who can then organize a memorial service themselves.  Or it can be as elaborate as a traditional funeral just the difference being the cremation of the casket and deceased as opposed to a burial.

Finding a low cost cremation provider in New York
If you have a complaint about how a funeral was conducted in New York

If have a grievance with a funeral home in New York and they do not resolve it to your satisfaction, you may take up your complaint with the New York State Department of Health.  You must file a complaint in writing to:

New York State Department of Health 
Bureau of Funeral Directing 
Hedley Park Place 
433 River Street Suite 303 
Troy, New York 12180

New York State Funeral Directors Association, Inc. 
426 New Karner Road 
Albany, NY 12205 
Phone: 518-452-8230 
Fax: 518-452-8667 

New York State is divided into 62 counties:

Albany County, Allegany County, Bronx County, Broome County, Cattaraugus County, Cayuga County, Chautauqua County, Chemung County, Chenango County, Clinton County, Columbia County, Cortland County, Delaware County, Dutchess County, Erie County, Essex County, Franklin County, Fulton County, Genesee County, Greene County, Hamilton County, Herkimer County, Jefferson County, Kings County, Lewis County, Livingston County, Madison County, Monroe County, Montgomery County, Nassau County, New York County, Niagara County, Oneida County, Onondaga County, Ontario County, Orange County, Orleans County, Oswego County, Otsego County, Putnam County, Queens County, Rensselaer County, Richmond County, Rockland County, Saint Lawrence County, Saratoga County, Schenectady County, Schoharie County, Schuyler County, Seneca County, Steuben County, Suffolk County, Sullivan County, Tioga County, Tompkins County, Ulster County, Warren County, Washington County, Wayne County, Westchester County, Wyoming County, Yates County

Expert Author: Sara J. Marsden

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.

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Last Revised:  06/08/2013
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