New York

Arranging a funeral or cremation in New York

With the average traditional funeral in New York costing between $7,000 and $10,000, and that’s before a cemetery plot & grave marker are added to the total bill, it’s not hard to see why more and more families in New York are looking at cremation as an alternative. 

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 

Below is a table listing the average and best direct cremation prices in areas of New York State.

CITYAVERAGE DIRECT CREMATION COSTBEST PRICE DIRECT CREMATION CALL NOW
Albany$2,171 $895 (518) 205-3636
Buffalo$2,130 $1,395 (716) 202-8600
New York City$2,311 $695(212) 381-6243
Nassau County$2,391 $895 (516) 406-8141
Rochester$2,151 $1,395 (585) 207-0874
Schenectady$2,172 $895 (518) 205-3636
Suffolk County$2,434 $895 (631) 503-1617
Syracuse$2,203 $1,395 (315) 203-3737
Westchester County$2,391 $695(914) 984-3377

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 support you during this difficult time. Here are some things to consider to help you select a funeral home:

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. The location may not be as important if you do not plan to hold a service or choose a direct cremation.

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.

Cemetery

This will give you a better idea of what range of services you need from the funeral home. Some funeral homes offer various 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 New York

On average, a traditional funeral in New York State will range from $7,000 to $10,000. 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 on the type of service – Direct Cremation, Cremation Memorial, or Full-Service Cremation Funeral. In addition, prices offered by different funeral homes may differ for their service packages.

We have covered in much more detail the different cremation service options and prices in our Guide to Cremation Costs in New York State.  The average costs can range from $3,000 – $8,000 for cremation services with some visitation or ceremony. However, direct cremation can cost as little as $1,000 in NYC and $1,295 in Upstate New York.

Check out the table of best direct cremation prices near you.

Why Direct Cremation?

Direct cremation can be an alternative if you’re looking for a more affordable option. This option skips the traditional funeral service and focuses solely on cremation. Remember 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 New York

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 New York State, 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 New York State: Your Rights as a Funeral Consumer

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

1. Funeral Director Licensing: Funeral directors in New York must be licensed by the New York State Department of Health. They oversee and coordinate funeral arrangements, including embalming, cremation, and transportation of the deceased.  Public Health Law section 3401 regulates the practice of funeral directing.  Funeral directors must be licensed by the New York State Bureau of Funeral Directing and registered with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), Office of Vital Records, and Burial Desk.  The Bureau can be reached at:

Bureau of Funeral Directing
875 Central Avenue
Albany, NY 12206
Phone (518) 402-0785

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

3. Transportation of the Deceased: The state regulates the transportation of human remains within New York. Funeral homes must comply with specific requirements for the transportation of the deceased, including obtaining necessary permits and adhering to health and safety guidelines. Only a licensed funeral director is permitted to collect and transport a deceased individual in New York.

4. Cremation Regulations: If you opt for cremation, New York 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. We do cover this in detail in Cremation Services & Costs in New York.

5. Death Certificates: Only a licensed funeral director can file the death certificate in NY.  Death certificates cost $15.00 each in New York. You can request additional copies (or amendments) from the New York State Department of Health Vital Records Office.

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) defining 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 New York State Department of Health 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 paying funeral expenses.  In the case of siblings, several family members can be 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

New York is one of a few States that dictate by legislation that a funeral director must be involved in certain aspects of funeral arrangements.  According to New York Public Health Law 4140, local registrars can only issue a removal or burial permit to a funeral director.  If you decide on a home funeral, there is no legal requirement for embalming, but you must ensure that the deceased is buried or cremated “within a reasonable time after death.”  You will need the services of a funeral director to file the death certificate within 72 hours and obtain the necessary permits.

It is possible to conduct a burial on private property, although you would require the funeral director to supervise the interment. And you will need to check with your local County Clerk about any zoning laws in your area.

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 will need the support and services of a NY-licensed funeral director.

Options for Memorialization in New York 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 New York State

You can choose to inter remains in a cemetery plot, whether for full body burial or the interment of cremated remains. Cemetery plots in and around NYC can be limited and expensive unless the family already has an existing plot.  For example, a single plot at Green-Wood Cemetery today costs between $21,000 to $26,000, and cremation niches start at $2,900. A grave memorial marker can be erected in tribute to your loved one. However, typically, cemeteries require a wait period before installing a headstone to allow the ground to settle. You should carefully check any cemetery bylaws.

Cemetery plots in Upstate and more rural areas of New York can be more affordable. Especially as there are many small historic cemeteries that have available space.  Do note that there is a charge to open and close the plot for burial in addition to the plot fee. This varies by cemetery.

The New York State Cemetery Board Division of Cemeteries regulates the 1,900 cemeteries that are run as not-for-profit organizations.  In addition, there are 4,000 other cemeteries run by local municipalities or religious organizations that the Division of Cemeteries does not govern.

The New York State Association of Cemeteries (NYSAC), 111 Washington Avenue, Suite 501, Albany, New York 12210 Phone (518) 434-1134

Cremated Remains Options

New York State has no specific laws governing cremated remains’ disposal.  You can:

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 New York are adding columbariums to cater to the need for a space to memorialize cremated remains at a more affordable cost. Cremation Niches come in all shapes and sizes. From small single cremains interments to family-sized columbariums.

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 public land or water, use a biodegradable container, or follow safe release practices. 

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

You must consider EPA regulations if you wish to scatter off the coast or out of New York Harbor. A burial at sea should be three nautical miles out, and a written notification should be provided to the local EPA representative within 30 days.

Burial at Sea Coordinator, US EPA Region 2, 290 Broadway, New York, NY 10007 Phone: (212) 637-3796 

Create a cremation artifact: Having a cremation memento made from the cremation ashes is another way a family can keep their loved one close by.  Many cremation artifact products are 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.

What if the deceased is at the County Medical Examiner?

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 arrange with a funeral home to collect your loved one once the body is released.

Check out the table of best direct cremation prices near you.

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 our Directory of Medical Examiners in New York State to help you locate a Medical Examiner and the Counties of jurisdiction.

Dealing With Hospice Care & Preparing for an Imminent Death

If your loved one is in hospice care in New York 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 New York 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, so it is commonly referred to as an “anatomical gift.”

Several national organizations offer an anatomical gift program whereby you can donate your body to science and benefit 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. Contact the Association of Medical Schools of New York at info@amsny.org or phone (212) 218-4610.

A full list of Medical Schools in New York State that offer Anatomical Gift programs can be found on the AMSNY website.

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 New York State?

The state of New York 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 residents of NY.

Federal Resources: Social Security pays a $255 lump-sum death benefit if qualifying, and certain veteran’s benefits are available.

County/Municipality Resources: Eligibility for any county assistance is determined at the County level. If a budget is available, any benefits are subject to qualification and are usually capped at $1,250. Visit NY.gov for a list of County Offices.

NYC Residents: NYC does provide low-income New York City residents with a Burial Financial Assistance program.  If qualifying, a resident can claim up to $900 in financial assistance to help pay for a funeral. The funeral expenses in total must not exceed $1,700. This program can cover the cost of an affordable direct cremation service.

Military Personnel: New York State also offers a Supplemental Burial Allowance to the surviving family of Military Service personnel.   The allowance of $6,000 can be used towards funeral and interment costs not covered by the federal government. 

Eligibility requires the deceased to have passed away during active duty or while receiving hazardous duty pay.

When you need to repatriate a loved one to or from New York

If a loved one dies away from his/her home in New York, you may wish to arrange to have the body collected and returned to New York for a funeral service. Also, with its huge immigrant population, many of those who settled in New York aspire to be returned to their homeland upon their death.  Transporting a body internationally can be quite complex, but it frequently happens.

You will need the services of a funeral professional specializing in funeral shipping. Call our funeral expert located out of NYC now if you need assistance with funeral shipping or have questions about how to make arrangements.

Experienced Funeral Shipping Services – New York Phone (877) 347 8086

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.

Culturally diverse funerals in New York

New York has a rich, vibrant, multicultural community, and as such, diverse funeral traditions and customs are practiced in New York. Be it traditional Irish wakes, African-American home-goings, Jewish funerals, or Buddhist ceremonies. There is a funeral services provider meeting all these needs. If you have a particular faith or custom requirement, be sure to check around and find out which providers can accommodate your needs.

What Options are there for a Green Funeral in New York State?

There are green death care alternatives in NY. 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.  Many cemeteries in New York have designated green burial divisions, even if they are a traditional cemetery. These are what are known as ‘hybrid’ green cemeteries.

If you want to learn more about arranging a green burial, call the New York Green Burial helpline below or visit our Guide to Arranging a Green Funeral in New York.

In December 2022, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law legislation allowing Natural Organic Reduction (NOR) as a form of final disposition. This makes NY the 6th state to add human composting as an alternative ‘eco’ option, although there are no facilities at present.  The legislation is still evolving, and currently, only cemeteries in New York are allowed under the law to offer this new service to consumers.

Have a Complaint or Concern about a Funeral Service Provider in New York?

If you are dissatisfied with a funeral or cremation service provider in New York, you must 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 unsatisfied with their response, you should write your complaint to the Bureau of Funeral Directing.

How to File a complaint with the NYS Department of Health: The New York State Department of Health oversees funeral and cremation services. You can file a complaint with the Bureau of Funeral Directing. You can either submit a complaint online through their official website or contact them directly for guidance on how to proceed.

New York State Department of Health
Bureau of Funeral Directing
875 Central Avenue
Albany, NY 12206

The bureau can only act 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 online or 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 New York Attorney General: Another option is to file a consumer complaint with the New York Attorney General’s Office.  Online complaints can be submitted here.

Office of the New York State Attorney General
The Capitol
Albany NY 12224

Phone (800) 771-7755

Obtain legal advice: If the issue remains unresolved, or you feel further action should be taken, you may want to consult an attorney specializing 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 New York, please contact us, as we are here to help guide you. 

Useful Resources:

Directory of Medical Examiner Offices in New York State

Funeral Consumers Alliance of Central New York

Funeral Consumers Alliance of the Finger Lakes

Funeral Consumers Alliance of Greater Rochester

Funeral Consumers Alliance of the Hudson Valley

Preplanning Guide & Checklist

Written by

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 15 years.