People we love die. When they do, we want to do something to honor them. Sometimes that means we bury our loved one. Sometimes that means we cremate or entomb the person. All those options are legal and available to Texans. Unfortunately, when someone we love dies, we are vulnerable. It is important to know your rights and what you should expect.
Can anyone conduct a funeral?
The short answer is yes. However, the single most important thing to know is that, in Texas, if a person or business is going to provide funeral services and related items for compensation, then the person/business must be licensed by the Texas Funeral Service Commission (TFSC), a state government agency the licenses and regulates the funeral business. The TFSC also regulates embalmers and crematories. Be aware that some non-Texas-based facilities advertise services online but do not have a license issued by the TFSC. The agency cannot resolve complaints against unlicensed operations.
What is a death certificate?
In Texas, a coroner, justice of the peace, or attending physician must file a report of death within 24 hours of a person’s death, and a death certificate must be filed within 10 days of the death. Generally, if you are working with a funeral facility, their staff will help the surviving family secure certified copies of death certificates. The family will need death certificates to finalize financial matters related to the deceased.
Does Texas require embalming?
Texas does not require embalming (which is using chemicals to slow the decomposition of the body). However, Texas law states that bodies that are held for over 24 hours must be refrigerated, embalmed, or encased in a special container. Additionally, if the family is going to transport the body to another state, the carrier may require embalming, and it is certainly possible that the destination state may require embalming.
How much does a funeral cost?
That is a difficult question to answer specifically because costs are constantly changing and because it depends on what the family wants for their loved one. However, Texas law requires funeral facilities to give you current retail price information, and you can get that information over the telephone or in person. The facility is required to give you a general price list that details the cost of the funeral service and the various items that they sell. For example, the funeral facility must provide a casket price list, an outer container price list, and an urn price list. They must specify charges for the various services they provide as well. For example, the costs for: cremation, embalming, for a hearse, and any other service for which the facility may want to seek compensation.
Am I required to get a container if I bury my loved one?
No. Texas does not require caskets or burial containers. However, the TFSC does not regulate cemeteries, and some cemeteries may require those things. But you should also know that if you purchase a casket or urn from someone other than the funeral facility, the facility must accept your container without any additional charge.
Does Texas require a container if my loved on is cremated?
Texas law requires that people that will be cremated be placed in a combustible container; however, embalming and a casket are not required. State law allows you to dispose of cremated remains by scattering the ashes on private property (assuming you have the consent of the property owner) or having them interred at a cemetery. The family is also allowed to keep the remains in their home or to be scattered on uninhabited public land or waterways.
Am I allowed to designate how I want my remains handled?
Yes. The TFSC has forms available on their website for designating a person to control the disposition of your body. But, if you do not specifically designate a person, then those decisions will be made by your surviving spouse, adult children, parents, any adult with kinship, or as designated by a court.
Am I allowed to pay for my funeral in advance?
Yes. Prepaid funeral contracts are allowed and are regulated by the Texas Department of Banking. Any funeral facility that sells prepaid funeral services or items must work within the regulations established by Texas law. As with any contract, you should review the terms of a prepaid funeral contract very carefully before signing it.
Does Texas have cemeteries specifically for veterans?
Veterans can be buried in a Texas State Veterans Cemetery. The funeral facility will want to see discharge documents. Cremated remains can also be placed at these facilities. Contact the Veteran’s Land Board at 800-252-VETS (8387) for more information.
Who can I contact if I have a complaint?
Contact the TFSC. They will investigate your complaint and keep you advised as to the eventual resolution. You can also contact the Texas Office of the Attorney General, Consumer Protection Division.
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This article discusses appointing someone to handle your remains after death.
Understand laws about what happens to your property after you die.