Frequently Asked Questions for Consumers, Potential Funeral Directors, Registered Residents, Funeral Directors and Firms

Consumers

The "customer." It's very important for family members to agree about the type of services and merchandise to be purchased. Ideally, the family should designate one person to make the arrangements and to convey the family decisions to the funeral director. The customer will be responsible for the payment of the bill. Additionally, a person may appoint an "agent in control of disposition" in writing to carry out their wishes. The agent is not necessarily responsible for the expenses, however.

Yes. In New York State, only a licensed and registered funeral director may make funeral arrangements for the care, moving, preparation and burial or cremation of a deceased person. At the least, the funeral director will file the death certificate, transfer the body, coordinate with cemetery or crematory representatives, make the necessary preparations, and move the body to the cemetery or crematory.

No, the Bureau cannot endorse any particular funeral firm. Customers are encouraged to visit multiple funeral firms to find one they are comfortable with.

No, but many cemeteries do require the use of a "suitable container." New York State law allows for the use of an unfinished wooden box or an "alternative container" made of cardboard, pressed wood, composition materials, or canvas or other material. Even though burial vaults or grave liners are not required by law, some cemeteries require them to prevent collapse or sinking of the grave. If you do not want to buy a burial vault, choose a cemetery that does not require vaults.

No. In fact, a funeral director must obtain specific approval to embalm from the customer. A funeral firm may, however, require embalming if certain services, such as a viewing with an open casket, are chosen. Embalming fees must be clearly stated on both the firm's General Price List and on the Itemized Statement of Services and Merchandise Provided.

No. While the funeral director may advise against a viewing due to the cause of death or condition of the body, the final decision is left to the customer.

Yes. No matter what the funeral arrangements are, the customer has the right to see the body briefly. If this process is prolonged, the funeral director may consider it a viewing or visitation and a fee will be required.

The costs of funeral arrangements vary greatly, depending on the funeral firm and on the type of service and merchandise you choose. For example, if the service you select involves viewing the remains, the funeral firm may require embalming and preparation of the body, which can add expenses. Also, there is a tremendous range in the price of caskets, depending on style, type of material (wood or metal,) lining, etc. The least expensive type of funeral service is direct burial or direct cremation.

A direct burial includes a graveside ceremony if the customer wants it. The price for the ceremony, excluding cash advances, must be included in the fee for a direct burial. However, if the service requires staff in addition to the funeral director supervising the burial, an additional charge may be added. If so, this charge must be clearly listed on both the General Price List and the Itemized Statement of Services.

There is no price regulation in this industry. Consumers are encouraged to visit multiple funeral firms to find one they are comfortable with.

You can call several funeral firms and compare prices. (Funeral firms are required to give price information over the telephone.) If you've shopped around and the price is still too high, you may have to reconsider your selections.

Possibly. Casket rentals are not prohibited and some funeral firms offer this option. If a funeral firm offers rental caskets, it must be stated on the General Price List. If you rent a casket for a viewing, you can then buy a suitable container for burial, if you choose burial.

No. It is illegal for funeral firm staff to state or imply that any merchandise they offer for sale is unsatisfactory in any way.

Yes. Illegal actions include:

  • pressuring the customer to select certain services or merchandise
  • charging an additional fee for filing the death certificate or getting it medically certified
  • charging a "handling fee" for paying third parties on your behalf
  • charging a fee for handling a casket provided by the customer
  • charging for any service or merchandise not selected by the customer
  • charging interest on an outstanding balance unless this charge is disclosed at the time the funeral arrangements were initially made and is stated in the Itemized Statement
  • having persons other than a licensed funeral director make funeral arrangements, prepare the body, or supervise the burial
  • misrepresenting laws and regulations relating to funeral directing

Remember:

  • You do not have to accept services or merchandise you don't want!
  • You must be informed of all charges in advance!
  • Always get a receipt!

No. The funeral director must obtain your approval before making any substitutions or changes.

It is important to honor the wishes of people who want to donate all or part of their bodies upon death. Those who want to be donors should carry organ donor cards, sign the donor space on the back of their licenses, include their wishes in their wills, and inform family members. For more information on organ donation, call 1-866-NY-DONOR (1-866-693-6667).

You have the right to change funeral firms at any time. You will need to pay for any services that have already been performed (for which you had given approval). The funeral firm must allow the transfer of the body to another funeral firm, even if you haven't paid yet. It may not hold the body in exchange for payment.

Probably. You will need to give certified copies to insurance companies, banks, etc. The funeral firm may obtain them for you. They cannot charge you more than the actual fee. Death certificates are filed by the funeral director with the registrar of Vital Records in the locality where the death occurred.

For deaths that occurred outside of NYC, contact the registrar's office of the county where the death occurred. You may also try contacting the NY State Department of Health Division of Vital Records at 855-322-1022 or visit http://www.health.ny.gov/vital_records/death.htm.

For deaths that occurred within the five boroughs of NYC, contact the NYC Office of Vital Records by either calling 311 (within NYC), 212-788-4545 or you may visit http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/services/vr.shtml.

This website: http://www.health.ny.gov/funeraldirector/ has the complaint form. Please read the notation on our website on what types of complaints the Department has jurisdiction over so we can best be of assistance.

Complaints will be reviewed by professional staff in the Bureau of Funeral Directing to determine if the allegations are within the regulatory jurisdiction of the NYS Department of Health. Please note that it is difficult for the Department to verify complaints regarding the demeanor of funeral directors or other funeral firm staff. Therefore, these types of concerns, if included in your complaint, will not be addressed in the Complaint Review Process.

Division of Cemeteries: 518-474-6226.

Potential Funeral Directors

You must attend an accredited mortuary school, register with the Bureau as a funeral director student, and graduate. You must also pass the National Board Exam given by the Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards. The Bureau must receive original, certified copies of both the transcript and the passing board scores in order for you to begin a registered residency. You must serve a 12-month post-graduate residency at a New York State registered funeral firm under the supervision of a licensed and registered NYS funeral director. Eight months into the residency, you will be eligible to take the next scheduled NYS Funeral Director Law Examination. Once you have a passing score and you complete your residency, you will then become a licensed Funeral Director in the State of New York.

You can visit the website for the American Board of Funeral Service Education at www.abfse.org for a list of accredited schools and their passing rates on the National Board Exam.

After you confirm that the school you graduated from is accredited, call the Bureau of Funeral Directing at 518-402-0785 and request a student application. A section of it must be filled out by the registrar of your school. Have the application returned to us with the applicable registration fee and all other requested documents, and once we receive your passing scores directly from The International Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards, you will be mailed an application to begin your 12-month residency.

Call 518-402-0785 for the process, as it can vary depending on a number of factors.

Registered Residents

Yes, you can. When you received your residency packet, you were sent a yellow application similar to the green one you originally mailed to the Bureau. You and your new sponsor are to fill that out and return that to us.

You will get credit for the time served at your first residency as long as we have the quarterly reporting forms from that first residency signed by you and your former sponsor. Make sure to send us your first pocket card with your last reporting form from the first residency.

The average time to receive your documents is 1-2 weeks.

The NYS Law Exam is given three times a year in Albany. The last exam of 2017 will be given on September 28, 2017. The 2018 dates are: February 1, 2018, May 17, 2018 and September 20, 2018.

If you qualify for the next Law Exam, you will get a packet in the mail about one month prior to the exam with all the detailed information you will need. All residents are notified in writing of their Law Exam eligibility date at the beginning of their residency. Please contact the Bureau at funeral@health.ny.gov as soon as you reach your eligibility date to confirm your mailing address.

75%

There are 50 multiple choice questions on the exam.

A letter will be mailed to those who sat for the exam within two weeks after the exam date. If you failed the exam, your score will be on the letter. If you passed, the letter will only state that you passed the NYS Law Exam.

Yes, you can take the exam the next time it is scheduled. You will receive another packet in the mail a month prior to the next exam just like you did the first. There is no fee.

If you fail the Law Exam, you can extend your residency until the next scheduled exam under normal circumstances. Send us a letter requesting the extension until the next exam signed by you and your sponsor. If you have any questions, you may call the office at (518) 402-0785.

Print out the Address Change Form on http://www.health.ny.gov/funeraldirector/, complete it fully, and either mail, fax, or email it to us.

Funeral Directors

They expire on June 30th of even years.

Twelve (12) hours of continuing education including two (2) hours of applicable New York State law affecting funeral directing from a provider registered with the Bureau of Funeral Directing. 50% of continuing education must be in the form of live classroom (or live, interactive webinar) instruction.

Call 518-402-0785 to speak to someone about your particular situation.

Use the duplicate licensure form on http://www.health.ny.gov/funeraldirector/ and mail that in to us with a $20 certified bank check or money order for each document requested.

The Bureau can only accept payments in the form of a US money order, certified bank check, or business check. We cannot accept credit cards at this time, and we no longer accept personal checks.

Division of Vital Records: 518-402-8289

Look for the Address Change Form on http://www.health.ny.gov/funeraldirector/, print it out, fill it out completely, and either mail, fax, or email it to us.

Email us (funeral@health.ny.gov) or fax us (518-402-0784) the request with your registration and/or license number, the address the letter needs to go to, and your current address. There is currently no fee for this service.

Funeral Firms

Call the Bureau (518-402-0785) and notify us of the change so you can be mailed an application and instructions on how to proceed.

The direction of the Department of Health is to go as electronic as possible, and as such, we will be using email as much as possible for routine correspondence.

First, you must file the appropriate paperwork with the Department of State if registering the firm as a corporation or limited liability company (LLC). If registering the firm as an individual owner or partnership, you must file the certificate of business with the county clerk where the business will be conducted. Once you receive the appropriate certification and you have either permission to rent space to operate or have a certificate of occupancy for a new building, contact the Bureau to provide us with the registered name, manager's name and registration number, the firm's physical address, and county so we can send an application for registration of the firm.

Call the Bureau with the firm's name and registration number. You will receive in the mail instructions on how to finalize the closure of your firm with NYS.

Firm registrations expire on June 30th of odd years.

Go to http://www.health.ny.gov/funeraldirector/, print and fill out the duplicate licensure form. Mail that in to us with a $20 certified bank check, business check or money order.