Family and Friends Graveside, photo courtesy of Kimberley Campbell, Ramsey Creek Conservation Burial Ground
Who is Legally in Charge When Someone Dies? While some states make provisions for a designated agent to oversee funeral details, it must be in writing prior to the death to be legal. In some states the designated agent is at the top of this list. Otherwise, the next-of-kin is responsible for custody and control of the body of a loved one after death. These are the most widely accepted Top 10 relationships, but each state defines that relationship in some variation of the following, sobe sure to check your state's definition.
Children (varies; in no particular order, or by majority)
What Paperwork Must Be Filed?
Medical authorities are responsible for initiating the death certificate. This includes: the attending physician or medical examiner who authorizes the cause of death, and the hospice nurse and/or other qualified medical authority who certifies the time of death on the medical portion of the death certificate;
The demographic portion may be completed by the next-of-kin or designated agent if either is acting as his or her own funeral director;
The form must be filled out completely as specified, with no cross-outs, white-outs, or empty spaces;
Depending on your state's requirements, this form must be filed either at the Department of Vital Records, through a Town Clerk, City Registrar, or County authority in the town or county where the death occurred; check your state's requirements for filing deadlines;
In states that have an electronic system in place, the transit/transport/burial permit will be generated once the electronic report has been filed;
Check to see if your state allows for the body to be moved with or without a permit;
Final disposition by burial must be reported to the local Town Clerk, City Registrar, or County authority within the time designated by the state;
Certified copies will be needed for Social Security, veteran’s benefits, banks, insurance, credit cards, credit report companies, and other purposes.
Electronic Death Registration System (EDRS)
Your state may inadvertently be preventing families from caring for their own dead by denying them access to direct filing of death certificates to obtain burial transit permits. The EDRS system allows state and town officials (medical examiners, doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, funeral directors, town clerks, city and county registrars) to file death certificates directly with the State Department of Vital Records, but not individuals. Adoption of the system in some states does not take into account the needs of families wanting to care for their loved ones after death without the involvement of a funeral director. Unless specifically written to include paper filing options, EDRS regulations may effectively compel families to hire and pay for a professional to do something people in other states are capable of doing at no cost, creating undue financial burden. To learn if your state allows for the submission of paper death certificates, contact your state Department of Vital Records or your town clerk or city/county registrar.
The NHFA is a nonprofit 501c3 organization committed to supporting home funeral education. The NHFA does not offer certification opportunities. Membership in the NHFA and participation in its activities does not constitute endorsement of any kind.