Many are becoming more active in the after-death care of a deceased loved one. As more participate in this process, we are reminded of the intimate and healing potentials in this final leave-taking. Below is a step-by-step guide to help you with that process in PA – although each death will be different and you should expect to deal with unforeseen details. Here is a testimonial from a mom who chose a home funeral for her son.
The following is a list of general procedures for caring for your deceased loved one (when the death is not suspicious). However, many places where people die will not release a body to anyone other than a licensed funeral director or someone representing a licensed funeral establishment because they are not familiar with the facts. Make sure you are!
Step by Step
1 Contact Proper Authorities
If deceased is NOT with hospice and dies at home, call the local Coroner within approximately 2 hours of death. If deceased is with hospice, call the hospice organization to notify them. They will get the Hospice doctor to sign the Death Certificate.
2 Complete Death Certificate
Death Certificate must be signed, stating cause of death, either by Medical Examiner, Physician or Coroner. If your loved one dies at home, it will most likely be the Coroner (since most physicians no longer make house calls). Scott Sayers, Coroner Willowbank County Office Building 420 Holmes Street Bellefonte PA 16823-1488 Phone: (814) 355-689 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Click here for instructions and information you will need if you are filing the death certificate yourself.
3 Register Death Certificate
Local Registrars certify Death Certificate and then send it the 3rd day of the following month to the Department of Vital Records to be filed. The registrar must certify a Death Certificate within 96 hours of death. IF YOU RUN INTO ANY PROBLEMS WITH A REGISTRAR WHO THINKS ONLY FUNERAL DIRECTORS CAN FILE A DEATH CERTIFICATE, CALL JANICE TUMMAVICHAKUL, PA OFFICE OF VITAL RECORDS. HER DIRECT NUMBER IS 724-656-3154
5 Make arrangements for cremation or burial
For either burial or cremation, the local registrar will issue an Authorization for Disposition (but the Death Certificate must be obtained first). For burial, the family member in charge must sign the Authorization for Disposition and file the second copy with the Division of Vital Statistics within 10 days. The first copy is to be retained by the cemetery or property owner (if home burial). Then you must contact a cemetery to make arrangements or check with the local municipality for zoning laws regarding home burial. In Centre County, PA: Robert B. Jacobs, Director, Centre County Planning Office Willowbank County Office Building 420 Holmes Street Bellefonte PA 16823-1488 Phone: (814) 355-6791 Fax: (814) 355-8661 E-mail: email@example.com Usually, the top of the casket must be two feet below the natural surface of the earth and 150 feet from a water supply. Pennsylvania law prohibits burial on any land draining into a stream which furnishes any part of the water supply of a municipality unless at least one mile from the city. For cremation, you must obtain an Authorization for Cremation & Disposition form. There is a 24-hour wait before cremation. The crematory will file the Authorization with the Registrar.
6 Supply a Burial or Cremation Container
though this may not be needed depending on your final disposition choice). A container can be made with wood or a pressboard box can be purchased from crematory. Don’t feel squeamish or uncertain about this. You can decorate and personalize an inexpensive casket in a way that is dignified and respectful, as well as vibrant and fulfilling. Getting involved in the process in this way is what makes this a valuable undertaking!
7 Prepare, Shelter and Care For the Body
We can provide a volunteer to help you with this part of the process. You will also find an e-manual about caring for the body here
. In addition, there is a wealth of information (including a helpful training video to purchase) here.
If you are looking for dry ice: http://www.dryicedirectory.com/results.asp
9 Transport Body of Loved One to Crematory or Burial Ground
(either with the help of a funeral director or yourself). If you do this yourself, you will need a Burial Transit Permit. (The local registrar of the district in which the death occurred issues this form. A partially completed Certificate of Death form with the top part completed may be used to obtain the Burial Transit Permit.)
– IMPORTANT ADVICE –
In the case of an anticipated death, be SURE to walk through the entire procedure with your local officials and the receiving crematory or cemetery AHEAD of time. Also talk with doctors and nursing staff. Most municipal or hospital officials aren’t interested in anything other than obeying the law. Try not to take any hesitance on their part personally.
If you run into difficulty of any kind, feel free to call Josh Slocum, Executive Director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance at 800-765-0107 or Lisa Carlson, Executive Director of the Funeral Ethics Organization at 866-866-5411. Both have voicemail when they’re away from the phone and try to check often, evenings and weekends included. If you are in a restrictive state or running into problems at a time of need, they may be able to refer you to a friendly funeral director who can do the minimum necessary to facilitate your plans.