How to arrange a funeral or cremation in Georgia
This guide outlines some key points you should consider if you are tasked with arranging a funeral or cremation service in Georgia or pre-planning funeral or cremation services.
The responsibility for making final arrangements can be overwhelming, as there are many decisions to be made, and state laws can vary somewhat. It helps to familiarize yourself with the Federal Trade Commission’s ‘funeral rule.’ Still, it is also vital to have a clear understanding of how this translates into practice in the state of Georgia.
How do you choose which funeral home or cremation provider in Georgia suits your needs?
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Choosing the ‘right’ funeral home or cremation provider in Georgia ensures your funeral needs are met. Traditionally many people just opted for the local funeral home they knew of, the family had previously used, or they had been referred to.
But tradition is changing, and people can often have specific funeral requirements that they need to have met, such as working to a tight budget or wanting something more unconventional.
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It is always wise to ask around and check reviews on funeral homes. We recommend comparing services and costs between funeral homes in Georgia, as these can vary considerably. It will help to be clear about what your basic needs are to help you narrow down your selection process.
How do I find a funeral home or cremation provider in Georgia?
There are around 1000 funeral homes, cemeteries, and crematories in Georgia. US Funerals Online lists all funeral establishments in our Georgia funeral home directory by city.
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Who is responsible for making the funeral arrangements in Georgia?
The immediate next-of-kin usually assumes responsibility for making or carrying out funeral arrangements. A legal stature of responsibility falls to the spouse first, then children over 18 years, parents, and siblings.
If there is any dispute about funeral arrangements, your funeral director, a funeral mediator, or an attorney should be able to assist.
Do you want a burial or cremation service in Georgia?
Deciding whether you want a burial or a cremation is probably the most important decision to be made initially. Choosing between burial or cremation should be an entirely personal choice. Burial has traditionally been the preferred disposition choice in Georgia; however, times are changing, and cremation is gaining popularity.
The cost can be a driving factor in making this decision today, as the average burial costs around $7,848 (according to the National Funeral Directors Association 2022), which does not include cemetery costs.
In comparison, the average cremation costs in Georgia are more in the region of $3,000, and simple, low-cost cremations can cost as little as $750.
Georgia has a mandatory 24-hour waiting period before a cremation can be performed. This is standard practice, and a cremation authorization form must be signed by the immediate next of kin to enable the cremation permit to be issued.
What is the cost of a funeral or cremation in Georgia?
This is a very valid question, and, for our consumer culture, we expect to have it answered immediately before making any buying decisions. Yet, unfortunately, the funeral industry historically has steered away from openly disclosing prices.
Today the FTC’s ‘funeral rule’ protects funeral consumers. A funeral home in Georgia must provide you with a general price list (GPL) if you make an inquiry about their services. You do not have to provide any personal information. However, some funeral homes will still ask for your contact information and insist on having a funeral director call you back. Why? Because they want the opportunity to ‘sell’ their services to you, and a funeral is considered an emotional purchase.
I mentioned above that the national average funeral cost is $7,848 (without a burial plot). In Georgia, the average cost of a traditional funeral is in the region of $4,500 (without cemetery fees). A Georgia cremation can cost as little as $800 if you opt for a simple, direct cremation, or it can range up to around $4,000 for a cremation with a service.
Finding a low-cost cremation or funeral option in Georgia
If you are concerned about funeral costs, Georgia’s DFS Memorials providers offer low-cost cremation and affordable burial services. All DFS Memorials providers guarantee to offer a ‘best value’ direct cremation package.
Sending funeral flowers in Georgia
Funeral flowers can be expensive. To send inexpensive funeral flowers to a funeral home in Georgia, visit our funeral flowers section. In affiliation with BloomsToday, we offer our visitors a 25% discount on a selection of sympathy flowers and everyday low-price savings on funeral sprays and wreaths.
Can I arrange a ‘home funeral’ or green burial in Georgia?
Yes, there are no specific laws prohibiting home funerals or green burials in Georgia, apart from in Bibb County. If you so wish, you are at liberty to take care of your own loved one. You must file the death certificate and obtain the necessary burial permit.
If you wish to bury on your own land, you should first check with the local zoning ordinance, clearly map out the burial plot and lodge this with the property deeds. It is recommended that you ensure any grave plot is at least 150 feet from any water supply and 25 feet from any power lines.
Honey Creek Woodlands is a designated green burial cemetery at 212 Highway 212 SW, Conyers, Georgia. For more information, check out our Green Burial Directory.
There is also a growing interest in sustainable alternatives to traditional death care. In recent years, flame cremation, or water cremation (technical term – Alkaline Hydrolysis), is gaining traction in the industry. Although, at present only legal and available in a number of states.
You can learn more about Aquamation here.
Is embalming required in Georgia?
No, embalming is NOT required by law in Georgia. If you require a public viewing or open casket service, your funeral home may have a policy that requires embalming.
Embalming is merely a temporary method to delay decomposition, and if you would prefer not to have your loved one embalmed, a timely burial or cremation can avoid this.
What are my options for purchasing a casket or alternative container?
A casket is NOT required by law for burial in Georgia, and all that is required by law for cremation is a “rigid, combustible container.” No law stipulates that you must purchase a casket, and you can make your own, choose a simple burial shroud or basket or purchase a simple pine coffin.
The casket is probably the single most expensive purchase of the funeral, so if you can minimize this cost, you will reduce your overall funeral costs.
The FTC’s funeral rule stipulates that you have the right to purchase a casket from elsewhere than your funeral home, and yet they MUST accept it without charging you a handling fee. This rule was introduced because, at one point, only funeral homes were selling caskets, and they were often marked up by as much as 400-600%.
Today, you can buy caskets online at Walmart and Cosco or from other casket retailers, and prices for a basic adult casket can start at around $995. This change in the industry, and the rise in cremation, has meant that funeral homes in Georgia have become much more competitive in their casket prices.
Rental caskets are also available from some Georgia funeral homes, which can save on the cost of purchasing a casket (especially for a cremation service). However, a casket rental is not cheap and can cost around $300 – $600.
What are burial and cemetery plot requirements in Georgia?
All cemeteries have regulations that govern how they are operated. These regulations are partly in place to protect and manage the perpetual care of the grounds. Before you purchase any burial plot, you would be well advised to check the cemetery regulations thoroughly.
Burial vaults are NOT required by law in Georgia, although many (if not most) cemeteries insist upon them. The burial vault helps them maintain the integrity of the ground and prevent subsidence – it also costs you around $700.
In addition to this, there will be fees to open and close a burial plot and guidelines as to what kind of grave marker you can erect. There are usually regulations that can limit what happens should you decide you no longer need the plot and wish to re-sell it.
Can I pre-plan a funeral or cremation in Georgia? How does state law govern preneed plans?
Yes, you can pre-plan a funeral or cremation in Georgia. It can greatly alleviate stress for surviving families if there is a funeral plan in place that eliminates the need for decision-making and even financial anxiety about paying for the funeral.
In Georgia, only a licensed funeral director operating out of a licensed funeral home may sell a preneed funeral contract. Pre-paid funeral contracts and cremation plans are held in a trust fund. While planning to pre-plan and prepay for a funeral in Georgia is sensible, you should carefully consider what happens with your contract.
Another option can be to pre-plan the funeral services you require by pre-registering with a funeral or cremation company and then putting aside the appropriate funds in a POD account. This ensures your plan is in place, your wishes are taken care of, and your monies remain safe and secure, yet your designated POD beneficiary can easily access the funds once a death has occurred.
What are the laws for scattering ashes in Georgia?
Georgia law states that cremated remains may be kept by the person who has legal control over the remains (or the authorizing agent) or disposed of in any of the following ways:
- By placing cremated remains in a grave, niche, or mausoleum
- By scattering the remains in a designated scattering area or memorial garden
- By scattering remains on any private land with the consent of the landowner
- By scattering the remains on any uninhabited public land or waterway
The scattering of ashes in Georgia is still something of an unpoliced matter. However, if you wish to scatter ashes in state parkland, you would be well advised to check whether any permit or approval is required.
If you scatter in rural parkland, ensure you conduct the scattering at least 150 feet away from any trial, developed facility, or body of water. State parks in Georgia will not allow the erection of any marker or shrine at a scattering site, and only biodegradable urns or flowers should be used.
If you wish to scatter your loved one’s ashes in the waters off St. Simons and the other Georgia islands, then you can carry out a sea scattering. Charter services offer an hour-long sea scattering charter for around $250.
Georgia is in Region 4 of the EPA. According to EPA governance, if you conduct a sea burial, this should be at least 3 nautical miles at sea, and a report of the scattering should be filed with your regional EPA within 30 days. Region 4 contact number is (404) 562-9900.
What help is available with funeral expenses in Georgia?
Families ask us this question so often today, and unfortunately, the answer is that there is very limited, if little, help available for paying for a funeral in Georgia. States and counties used to have a budget for indigent burial assistance, but many of these have been cut or completely axed.
Suppose the next of kin is in receipt of state welfare or other benefits. In that case, you can contact the Georgia Department of Human Services, Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS), and find out if any aid is currently available.
Do not worry alone. Consult with friends and local support groups, and remember that a simple direct cremation is the most cost-effective funeral option if you have little or no money.
The DFS Memorials providers in Georgia all offer a complete direct cremation for under $1,000.
Are whole-body donations permitted in Georgia?
Yes, you can donate your body to science in the state of Georgia. 5 institutions have body donation programs in Georgia:
- Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta
- Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in Suwannee
- Medical College of Georgia in Augusta
- Mercer University School of Medicine in Macon
- Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta
You should check with the institution you are interested in donating to. Terms and acceptance of a body donation program can vary.
What do you do if your loved one dies away from Georgia?
As a more mobile population, this is happening more often today. If your loved one dies while away from Georgia, you will need the services of a mortuary shipper.
To learn more about shipping human remains domestically or internationally, visit our Funeral Shipping section.
If you do regularly travel for work, pleasure, sport, visiting family, or snow-birding, you may wish to consider our great value Travel Protection Plan. This plan costs just $450 for an individual for lifetime protection against the costly expense of returning a body home if a death occurs 75 miles (or further) from your residence in Georgia. It also provides global coverage.
Domestic funeral shipping can cost from $3,000, and International repatriation can start at around $6,900.
Visit our article on Travel Protection: Your Guide to Affordable Funeral Shipping, or click on the link above to enroll today.
Where do I get a copy of a death certificate from in Georgia?
Death certificates are only issued to family members or legal representatives with a tangible interest. A certified copy of a death record can be obtained from the Georgia Vital Records Office in Atlanta or from the county office.
You can obtain a copy in person, by mail, or online. Do check the office opening hours if you decide to apply in person. You will need to provide your ID and fill in an application form.
A death certificate in Georgia costs $25.00 for the first copy and $5.00 for each additional copy.
2600 Skyland Drive, NE
Atlanta, GA 30319
What should you do if you have a complaint about funeral services or products you have purchased?
The state board licenses all funeral homes in Georgia, and if you have a grievance with a licensed establishment that you cannot resolve with the funeral home, you can lodge a formal complaint with the state board.
The Georgia Board of Funeral Service can be reached at 237 Coliseum Drive, Macon, GA, 31217. Phone (478) 207-2440
Funeral Consumer Support in Georgia
The Funeral Consumers Alliance has a chapter in Georgia that provides member services to assist people in arranging funeral services.
- Understanding the FTC Funeral Rule
- Glossary of Funeral Terms: How to Understand the General Price List