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Federal Trade Commission Rights

1. Customers at a funeral home must be handed a General Price List before talking about funeral arrangement prices. If asked, mortuaries must also give prices by phone. If a mortuary has a web site, it must publish a General Price List or at least a list of services and products they offer, as of January 1, 2013, per state law.

2. Funeral home and cemetery shoppers must also be given a copy of the “Consumer Guide to Funeral and Cemetery Purchases,“ produced by the State of California Department of Consumer Affairs, Cemetery and Funeral Bureau, before they discuss prices in a choice of English or Spanish.

3. The consumer can write out his or her funeral wishes prior to death and the funeral home is obligated to carry out the plans, if finances in the estate are sufficient.

4. The person can choose NOT to be embalmed—there is no state law requiring it unless the body is being shipped by public carrier across state lines, and even then they can avoid embalming by using a Ziegler type shipping container. Refrigeration and dry ice will keep a body preserved until it is buried or cremated.

5. The consumer can choose only what he or she needs from the General Price List. They do not have to choose a package plan which may include items they do not want. The funeral home cannot charge a handling fee if the family decides to buy a casket or urn somewhere else (or have a family member make one).

6. There is no state law requiring casket liners or vaults in cemeteries, yet most of the cemeteries in California require liners or vaults to keep the ground from sinking.

7. Only one body at a time is allowed in the crematory retort to ensure the remains are not mixed with another person’s. Mortuaries and crematories must have body tracking systems.

8. The family can witness the cremation if space permits. Additional charges may apply.

9. Ashes may be scattered on private land with permission from the landowner, or in a public park with permission from the superintendent. They may be scattered on the ocean or navigable inland waterway at least 500 yards from shore by boat or airplane. This is in addition to keeping the ashes at a private home, interring in a cemetery plot or scattering garden, placing in a columbarium, or putting them in a house of worship. The family can scatter the ashes themselves, or hire a person or firm licensed to dispose of ashes called a "cremated remains disposer." Licensed disposers are listed on the Cemetery and Funeral Bureau web page here, by city and county. If you do not see the information you need, your local Funeral Consumers Alliance affiliate may be able to furnish more details.

10. A family may have a home funeral and transport the body themselves to a cemetery or crematory, but must obtain a proper death certificate and permits from their county. Your local FCA affiliate can help you find examples or set you on the path to obtaining and completing these documents.

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