Arranging a Funeral or Cremation Service in Montana

This guide aims to answer some key questions about making funeral or cremation arrangements in Montana. We provide an overview of some legal aspects of making funeral plans specific to Montana funeral laws and what funeral or cremation costs to expect.

Save on Cremation Costs

Cremation is not only significantly less expensive, but it also allows families much more flexibility in planning a memorial service.  Unlike the traditional funeral burial, where everything must be planned and arranged in a very short time, a cremation can happen immediately after the death. 

Direct Cremation is the least expensive type of cremation. However, you’ll find many funeral homes reluctant to want to talk about this as an option.  With a direct cremation, the funeral director chosen is responsible for:

  • collecting the body from the place of death
  • storage of the deceased prior to the cremation
  • filing the legal paperwork
  • taking the body to the crematory for cremation
  • returning the ashes to family or next of kin 

How to Choose a Funeral Service Provider

Choosing the right funeral home is an important decision. Their role is to guide you through the funeral arrangements and provide support during this difficult time. Here are some things to consider to help you select a funeral home:

Find a Funeral Home or Crematory in Montana – Directory of Locations

Recommendations: Consider referrals and positive reviews from others who have used their services. Ask for recommendations from friends, family, or even clergy members who may have experience with funeral arrangements.

Location: The location of the funeral home, if you are holding a service or you have a specific burial or cremation site in mind. This will be more convenient for you and your family. If you do not plan to hold a service or are choosing a direct cremation, then the location may not be as important.

Services Provided: Do you know what kind of funeral or cremation service you wish to arrange? And any ancillary services you may require – such as purchasing a casket or urn, flowers, and other tribute products.

This will give you a better idea of what range of services you need from the funeral home. Some funeral homes offer a variety of options, such as traditional funerals, memorial services, or direct cremation. Others may offer a more limited range of services.

Cultural and religious considerations: If you have specific cultural or religious requirements for the funeral service, look for a funeral home that understands and respects those customs. They should have experience in handling ceremonies that align with your beliefs.

Facilities: If you plan to hold a funeral or memorial service, you may need to assess their facilities. You can visit the funeral home in person or check out their website. Consider factors such as the size and ambiance of viewing rooms, chapels, reception areas, access, and parking. Ensure they can accommodate the number of guests you expect.

Pricing and transparency: Funeral costs can vary, so it’s important to inquire about pricing and payment options upfront. A reputable funeral home should be transparent about its pricing structure and provide you with a detailed breakdown of costs.

Remember, it’s okay to consider multiple funeral homes and ask questions before making your decision. Do not feel rushed. Especially if your loved one is in the shelter of a hospital, hospice, or nursing home.  Take your time to choose a funeral home that aligns with your requirements and provides the support you need during this difficult time.

Understanding Funeral & Cremation Service Prices

Funeral prices do vary depending on various factors such as the location, type of service, and personal preferences of the family. Let’s take a look at what you can expect as a guide to average costs.

Average Cost of a Funeral Service in Montana

On average, a traditional funeral in Montana will range from $6,000 to $12,000. This typically includes services such as embalming, a casket, funeral home services, transportation, and other related expenses. However, it’s important to note that this cost doesn’t include additional expenses like cemetery plots, headstones, or flowers.

Average Cost of a Cremation Service

The average cost of a cremation service will vary depending largely on the type of cremation service – Direct Cremation, Cremation Memorial, or Full-Service Cremation Funeral. In addition, prices offered by different funeral homes may differ for their service packages.

The average costs can range from $3,000 – $9,000 for cremation services with some kind of visitation or ceremony. However, direct cremation can conducted from as little as $1,695 in Montana.

Why Direct Cremation?

If you’re looking for a more affordable option, direct cremation can be an alternative. The cost of a direct cremation in Montana ranges from $1,695 to $3,300. This option skips the traditional funeral service and focuses solely on the cremation process.

Keep in mind that if you choose direct cremation, you can still hold a memorial service separately if desired.  Choosing direct cremation keeps funeral costs down for the surviving family and allows them to consider hosting their own memorial tribute when they are ready and wherever they choose.

Preplanning a Funeral or Cremation in Montana

Preplanning a funeral or cremation can be a considerate way to ensure that your wishes are known and carried out when the time comes. It allows you to make decisions ahead of time, relieving your loved ones of the burden of making difficult choices during an emotional period.

Making arrangements in advance can also help alleviate financial concerns for your loved ones. You can explore different options and determine a budget that suits your needs. This allows you to consider costs and make financial arrangements, such as setting aside funds or purchasing funeral insurance, to ease the financial burden on your family later on.

Pre-arranging also gives you the opportunity to personalize and customize your funeral according to your wishes. You can specify the type of service, location, music, readings, and other elements that hold significance to you. This way, you can have a service that truly reflects your life and values.  Preplanning a funeral offers peace of mind to both you and your loved ones.

In Montana, any monies paid to a funeral home for a preneed funeral contract go into a State Trust Fund. To ensure your funeral plan is protected for the future.

Understanding Funeral Laws in Montana State: Your Rights as a Funeral Consumer

Arranging a funeral in Montana State is subject to various laws and regulations. Some important laws that affect funeral arrangements in Montana include:

1. Funeral Director Licensing: Funeral directors in Montana must be licensed by the Montana Department of Labor and Industry Board of Funeral Service. They are responsible for overseeing the licensed practice of funeral homes, including embalming, cremation, and transportation of the deceased. The Board can be reached at:

Board of Funeral Service
301 S. Park Avenue
4th Floor
Helena, MT 59620 Phone (406) 841-2359

2. Funeral Home Requirements: Funeral homes in Montana must meet specific standards and regulations set by the state. This includes maintaining proper facilities, equipment, and records, as well as following guidelines for handling bodies, embalming, and cremation.

3. Transportation of the Deceased: The transportation of human remains within Montana is regulated by the state. Funeral homes must comply with specific requirements for the transportation of the deceased, including obtaining necessary permits and adhering to health and safety guidelines.

Understanding cremation laws in Montana

4. Cremation Regulations: If you opt for cremation, Montana State imposes regulations to ensure proper handling and documentation. These regulations include obtaining authorization for cremation, proper identification of the deceased, and following specific procedures for the cremation process.

5. Death Certificates: The Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) serves Montanans and death certificates are charged at $16.00 per certified copy and can be ordered from Montana Office of Vital Records, 111 N Sanders Rm 6, Helena, MT. 

You can order online, in person, or by mail.  You will require ID to request a copy of a death certificate. The funeral director will generally file for the death certificate for the family and send it to the appropriate medical personnel for authorization within 3 working days after the death occurs. It should be duly authorized and returned to the funeral director within 48 hours after receipt.

6. Federal Legislation: The FTC Funeral Rule dictates certain criteria that funeral businesses must adhere to. A funeral home must have a General Price List (GPL) that clearly defines its services and costs. Embalming is not legally required unless there are certain exceptional conditions relating to public health and transportation of the deceased.  According to the Funeral Rule, a consumer has the right to purchase a casket from a third-party seller. The funeral home must accept it and cannot charge a surcharge fee.

You should consult with a licensed funeral director or the Montana Department of Labor & Industry and Professional and Occupational Licensing Boards for the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding funeral laws and regulations in the state.

Who is legally responsible for making funeral arrangements?

The legal next of kin is generally the person, or persons, who is responsible for making arrangements if the deceased had no preneed funeral plan.  This also means the person making arrangements and signing the funeral contract is legally accountable for the payment of funeral expenses.  In the case of siblings, there can be several family members involved in making decisions. Although, this can sometimes cause dispute or confusion with regard to decisions being made.

Conducting a Home Funeral: Family-directed, D.I.Y Funeral, or Direct Cremation

It is legal in Montana to bury on your own land or private land with the consent of the landowner.  Montana is a magnificent rural state where many traditions still remain, such as home burials.  According to the Montana Statute, a maximum of five bodies may be buried on private property without the need to designate the site a cemetery. However, do note that the care and maintenance of a family burial plot is the responsibility of the family (or landowner) and not the responsibility of the County or of a Cemetery Association or District.

You do not need to employ the services of a funeral director for a home burial. There is no legal requirement for embalming if you decide on a home funeral, but you must ensure that the deceased is buried or cremated within a reasonable time after death. You would, however, need to file for the death certificate and obtain the necessary final disposition permit from the County town clerk.

So, whether you wish to conduct a home funeral, burial on private property in a family plot, or arrange to have a direct cremation disposition, you have options available to you.

Options for Memorialization in Montana State

Personalization is a key aspect of paying tribute to a loved one who has passed. There are various options for memorialization following a funeral or cremation service. We have listed below some of the main options:

Cemetery Plots in Montana State

You can choose to inter remains in a cemetery plot, whether for full body burial or the interment of cremated remains. A grave memorial marker can be erected in tribute to your loved one. However, typically, cemeteries require a waiting period before installing a headstone to allow the ground to settle. You should carefully check any cemetery bylaws.  Do note that in addition to the plot fee, there is a charge to open and close the plot for burial. This varies by cemetery.

The Department of Labor & Industry and Professional and Occupational Licensing Boards regulate cemeteries and compliance with perpetual care and maintenance.

Cremated Remains Options

Purchase a cremation niche in MT

Montana State does not have any specific laws governing the disposal of cremated remains.  You can:

  1. Inter in a plot or niche: As mentioned above, cremated remains can be interred for burial. Generally, this should cost less than a full cemetery plot, or several family members’ cremated remains can be interred in one plot. More cemeteries in Montana are adding cremation columbariums to cater to the need for a space to memorialize cremated remains at a more affordable cost.
  • Keep the urn at home or in a special place: Some families prefer to keep their loved one’s remains close by and choose to keep the urn at home.  Or may opt to create a dedicated memorial in a special place to the deceased.
  • Scatter the cremated remains: Ash scattering has become a popular choice for families and can be meaningful and symbolic. The act of dispersing the cremated remains back to nature can be viewed as a ‘release,’ a way of saying goodbye and enabling a loved one to be united in the elements of our planet in eternity.

You should follow any guidelines that restrict the dispersal of cremated remains on National Park land, public land, or water, and use a biodegradable container or follow safe release practices. 

We cover this in detail in our Guide to Scattering Cremated Remains.

  • Create a cremation artifact: Choosing to have a cremation memento made from the cremation ashes is another way that a family can keep their loved one close by.  There are a whole array of cremation artifact products available today.  Such as cremation jewelry, glass art, and garden ornaments.
  • Cremation Urns:  Selecting a cremation urn that is befitting for your loved one, unique, and personalized is important to many families.  Your funeral home may offer a selection of urns, and you can also buy affordable cremation urns online today.  With prices starting at around $80.00 for an adult brass urn.
  • Online Memorials: Creating an online memorial is a great way to make a lasting legacy and be able to share and remember. Some funeral homes offer an online memorial page as part of their service package.  There are also numerous dedicated online memorial websites offering this service today.
Buying an affordable brass cremation urn

What if the deceased is at the Coroner?

The majority of deaths occur within a hospital or care environment. But sudden or unexpected deaths fall under the jurisdiction of the County Coroner to investigate and initially collect the deceased. In this case, you will still need to make arrangements with a funeral home to collect your loved one once the body is released.

Once the Medical Examiner releases the body, the funeral director will transfer your loved one into their care.  You may need to visit the Medical Examiner’s office to identify the deceased. Usually, funeral homes have a good relationship with their County ME and can arrange to process all the paperwork at the same time as collecting the deceased into their care. This can often expedite the process, and some funeral homes can offer a discounted cremation service for a Medical Examiner case.

You can use this link to Montana Coroner locations to help you locate your nearest Coroner’s Office.  The Montana Coroner’s Association can be reached at 200 West Broadway Street, Missoula, MT 59802.

Dealing With Hospice Care & Preparing for an Imminent Death

If your loved one is in hospice care in Montana and the support staff has advised you to prepare for his or her passing, it can help to have provisional arrangements in place.  This way, when the time comes, the hospice can immediately contact the funeral service provider and arrange the transfer of your loved one into their care. 

If you contact a funeral home ahead of time, you can have some of the preparation and paperwork in place, and this will alleviate some of the stress that comes with having to make arrangements on short notice. This also means the hospice knows who to call, and the authorizations and other legal documentation can be pre-prepared.

Donating a Body to Science in Montana State: No Cost Cremation

Donating your body to medical science has been an end-of-life choice 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.”

There are several national organizations that offer 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.

Montana State University operates a body donation program.  Use this link to find out how to donate.

Do understand that an anatomical donation cannot always be accepted at the time of death. It is determined by the needs of medical and research institutions at the time and transportation services.  You should consider having a ‘reserve’ plan for a direct cremation if a donation is not accepted. 

Read more on our Guide to Body Donation.

Is there any financial assistance to help families with funeral expenses in Montana?

The state does not provide assistance for funeral or cremation costs. We have briefly detailed below any Federal, County, or city of residence programs that may offer help to Montanans.

Federal Resources: Social Security pays a $255 lump-sum death benefit if qualifying, and certain veteran’s benefits are available.  The U.S. Department of the Interior Indian Affairs offers Financial Assistance and Social Services (FASS) assistance to Native Americans and Alaska Natives.  Their Burial Assistance program provides funds to assist with burial expenses of deceased indigent Indians whose estates do not have sufficient resources to meet funeral expenses. Visit their website to learn more.

County/Municipality Resources: Any Indigent Burial and Funeral Assistance Program is managed as an ‘optional’ County program that a County considers necessary (Montana Title 53). You should contact your County Social Services to find out if any local provision is available to needy families.

Military Personnel: The Veteran and Dependent Burial Program has a cemetery at 55 Buffalo Trail Road, Laurel, MT, 59044.  Contact the U.S. Department of VA for assistance.  Veterans and their dependents are entitled to a free cemetery plot.

The Ramsey Keller Memorial offers financial assistance to families in Montana who have lost a child under the age of one year old. Call 406-670-8504 for more information.

When you need to repatriate a loved one to or from Montana

If a loved one dies away from his/her home in Montana, you may wish to arrange to have the body collected and returned to Montana for a funeral service. You will need the services of a funeral professional specializing in funeral shipping.

If you travel regularly, you should consider purchasing a Travel Protection Plan. This peace of mind plan costs just $450 for lifetime cover and protects you and your family from unnecessary expenses and stress if death should happen while away from your U.S. residence.

Funeral transportation cover

What Options are there for a Green Funeral in Montana?

There are green death care alternatives in Montana. You can choose to have a green funeral or natural burial or even make a cremation more eco-friendly by opting for a biodegradable urn and planting a memorial tree.  You can make a funeral more eco-conscious by not having embalming and choosing a natural coffin and a green burial plot. 

Some cemeteries in Montana have designated green burial divisions, even if they are a traditional cemetery. These are what are known as ‘hybrid’ green cemeteries.  Also, as mentioned above, conducting a home burial in Montana can facilitate a natural, family-led funeral service.

Have a Complaint or Concern about a Funeral Service Provider in Montana?

If you are dissatisfied with a funeral or cremation service provider in Montana, it is important to notify the correct licensing and legal authorities. This way, any necessary action can be taken, and other consumers can be protected.  We have detailed below some steps you can take to make a formal complaint.

Gather the details: Ensure you have all the necessary details about the funeral home or crematory, such as their name, address, and contact information. Additionally, note down the specifics of your complaint and any supporting documentation you may have.

Contact the funeral director: Start by contacting the funeral home or crematory directly. Explain your concerns and see if they can address and resolve the issue to your satisfaction. If you are not satisfied with their response, then you should make your complaint in writing to the Montana Department of Labor & Industry and Professional and Occupational Licensing Board.

How to File a Complaint with the Board: The Montana Department of Labor & Industry and Professional and Occupational Licensing Boards are responsible for taking the appropriate action for any unprofessional, incompetent, or unlawful practice by a licensed funeral professional.  You can either submit a complaint online through their official website or contact them directly for guidance on how to proceed.

301 S. Park Avenue, 4th Floor, Helena, MT 59620  Phone (406) 841-2359

The Board can only take proceed with action if it finds sufficient evidence that the funeral director has violated Public Health Law in implementing funeral/cremation regulations. If the complaint concerns a dispute regarding fees, note that the Department has no jurisdiction over the fee amount charged, only the mandated disclosure of the fee, as per the FTC Funeral Rule.

If your complaint is regarding fees charged or any other consumer issue,  you may wish to make a formal complaint to the Federal Trade Commission.  You can file a complaint with the FTC call 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357).  The FTC cannot resolve individual problems for consumers, but it can act against a funeral/cremation company if it sees a pattern of law violations.

Submit a complaint to the Montana Attorney General: Another option is to file a consumer complaint with the Montana Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protection. You can submit a complaint online here.

Office of Consumer Protection, 302 N. Roberts Street, Helena, MT 59620 Phone (406) 444-4500

Obtain legal advice: If the issue remains unresolved, or you feel further action should be taken, you may want to consider consulting an attorney who specializes in funeral law or consumer protection. They can provide you with legal guidance and help explore your options for further action.

If you have further questions about arranging a funeral or cremation in Montana, feel free to contact us, as we are here to help guide you. 

Resources:

DFS Memorials – Save on Cremation Costs in Montana

Written by

Nicholas is the owner & founder of US Funerals Online. He has been involved in the death care industry for over 20 years. He spent his childhood between the UK and US. Setting up a UK funeral website in 1998, to later turn his attention back to North America, building both US and Canadian Funeral websites. In 2011 formed DFS Memorials LLC - a national cremation company, specializing in affordable cremations.