Burial and Cremation Laws in New York

by ECL Writer
Burial and Cremation Laws in New York

There are regulations governing what happens to a body after death in every state. For instance, each state has its own laws governing embalming, burial or cremation, scattering of cremains, and obtaining a death certificate. In my previous article on New York home funeral laws, Eastcoastlaws.com answers some questions about home funerals in New york. Here are some answers to common questions about burial and cremation laws in New York.

What Is Cremation?

Cremation is a technical term for the burning and heating of human remains to produce bone fragments and other byproducts. Such bone pieces and other debris are processed during cremation, which may involve pulverizing them such that no piece can be recognized as skeletal tissue.

Are All Crematories In New York State Regulated By The State?

Yes, all crematories in New York State are regulated by the State. The New York State Department of Health regulates and oversees all crematories in the state to ensure that they are operated in accordance with state regulations and standards. These regulations are designed to protect public health and safety, as well as ensure that crematories are operated in a manner that is respectful and dignified for the deceased.

However, out of the 47 current crematories, 44 are run by non-profit organizations, two by municipalities, and one by a religious group. We have minimal control over the other crematories but oversee all those run by non-profit organizations.

What Laws And Regulations Apply To Crematories In New York?

All not-for-profit cemeteries must abide by Section 1517 of Article 15 of the Not-for-Profit Corporation Law, which also applies to crematories. Additionally, there are laws governing the environment, and public health, and different restrictions that apply to crematoriums.

One of the few states that require crematory operators to hold a certification from a group recognized by the Division of Cemeteries, New York has some of the strictest regulations for the operation of a crematory. Section 1517 of the Not-for-Profit Corporation Law imposes the following obligations and duties on crematories as well:

  • They must maintain privacy and be maintained in a clean, orderly, and sanitary manner with adequate ventilation. 
  • Only authorized persons are allowed to be present in the cremation area while cremation is taking place or in the temporary storage facility while remains are in storage.
  • A proper cremation permit and authorization form must be completed and submitted before the crematory can accept remains for cremation.
  • Each crematory must have a written plan that details how the identification of the remains is assured throughout the process from receipt of the remains to delivery of the cremated remains.
  • Once remains are received by a crematory, the container in which they are delivered may not be opened by anyone without prior written authorization. 
  • After each cremation, the inside of the cremation unit must be swept thoroughly so as to render the chamber reasonably free of all matter so that the remains of different persons are not commingled.

How Do I Get A Death Certificate In New York?

To obtain a death certificate in New York, you can follow these steps:

  • Obtain the necessary information: You will need to provide information about the deceased person, such as their full name, date of birth, date of death, and place of death.
  • Contact the local vital records office: The local vital records office is responsible for issuing death certificates. In New York, the local vital records office is usually located in the town or city where the person died.
  • Complete an application: You will need to complete an application for a death certificate and submit it to the local vital records office along with the required fee.
  • Provide identification: You will also need to provide proof of your identity, such as a driver’s license or passport.
  • Wait for the certificate: The local vital records office will process your application and issue a certified copy of the death certificate. This process can take several days to a few weeks.

It’s important to note that in some cases, you may need to provide additional documentation or information. You can contact the local vital records office for more information on the specific requirements for obtaining a death certificate in your area.

In New York, a funeral director must complete the death certificate and file it with the local registrar within 72 hours of the death. (New York Public Health Law § § 4140 and 4142.) The easiest way to get copies of a death certificate is to ask the funeral director to order them for you at the time of the death. If you are the executor of the estate, you’ll probably need at least ten certified copies.

If you need to order copies of a death certificate later, go to the website of the New York State Department of Health. From the DOH website, you can download a mail-in order form or order death certificates online or by phone.

To order certified copies of a death certificate, you must provide an acceptable form of identification, such as a government-issued photo ID. Each certified copy of a New York death certificate costs $30.

Who Can Order A Death Certificate In New York?

In New York State, the following individuals are typically authorized to order a death certificate:

  • Immediate family members: Spouses, parents, siblings, and children of the deceased person can typically order a death certificate.
  • Legal representatives: Executors, administrators, or other legal representatives of the deceased person’s estate can order a death certificate.
  • Funeral directors: Funeral directors who have been authorized by the deceased person’s family can also order a death certificate.
  • Other authorized individuals: In some cases, individuals who have a legitimate interest in obtaining a death certificate, such as insurance companies, government agencies, or researchers, may also be authorized to order a death certificate.

It’s important to note that the specific requirements for ordering a death certificate may vary depending on the individual’s relationship to the deceased person and the circumstances of the death.

Is A Funeral Director Necessary?

Yes, a funeral director affiliated with a New York registered funeral firm who is licensed and registered in the state of New York arranges the funeral, oversees the removal of the deceased’s remains from the scene of death, files the death certificate with the appropriate authorities, obtains the cremation permit, secures the approval for cremation, and manages the transportation of the deceased’s remains to the crematory.

Do I Have A Choice Of A Crematory Facility?

Yes, if you make funeral arrangements in advance of passing away, you get to pick the crematory. The person in charge of the deceased’s body, typically a surviving spouse, child, or another family member, has the right to determine which crematory will be utilized if funeral preparations are not established before to death. To compare the facility, the rates they charge, and whether it satisfies your needs and requirements, you have the right to contact and visit crematories. Also bear in mind that only New York crematories are subject to the laws and regulations of New York. We are unable to guarantee that a crematory located outside of New York complies with the exact same high standards.

Is Embalming Required In New York?

Embalming is a technique in which blood is emptied from the body and replaced with fluids that delay breakdown. Despite the fact that embalming is still a reasonably regular practice, it is rarely required since refrigeration accomplishes the same thing.

There are no laws or regulations in New York that mandate embalming.

How Soon After Death Should A Body Be Cremated?

There is no set time for how soon a body can be cremated after death. In general, cremation can take place as soon as the necessary paperwork is completed and the body has been properly prepared. This process can take anywhere from a few hours to several days, depending on the circumstances of the death, the availability of the crematorium, and the completion of any required examinations or autopsies.

It’s important to check with the cremation provider or funeral home for specific requirements in your area, as some states have specific laws and regulations that govern the timing of cremations.

In New York, Is A Casket Necessary For Burial Or Cremation?

A casket is often the single greatest expense incurred after a death. The cost of a casket can range from a simple $500 box to $20,000 or more for an elaborate design. Some people prefer to forgo a casket altogether.

Burial. No law requires a casket for burial. However, you should check with the cemetery; it may have rules requiring a certain type of container.

Cremation. No law requires a casket for cremation. On the contrary, federal law requires a funeral home or crematory to inform you that you may use an alternative container and to make such containers available to you. An alternative container may be made of unfinished wood, pressed wood, fiberboard, or cardboard.

How Long Does Cremation Take In New York?

The time it takes to cremate a body in New York varies based on a few factors. The most significant of these is the size and weight of the body. Generally, it takes between 2-3 hours for the cremation process to be completed.

Cremation involves placing the body in a cremation chamber, where it is subjected to high temperatures that reduce it to ashes and bones. The process is carefully monitored to ensure that it is performed correctly, safely and in accordance with local regulations.

Once the cremation process is complete, the ashes and bones are removed from the chamber and placed in a temporary container. These remains are then processed to remove any larger pieces of bone, leaving only a fine powder, which is the final cremated remains.

In New York, there are several cremation facilities that offer this service, and many funeral homes also provide cremation services. It’s essential to do your research and choose a reputable provider that you trust to handle your loved one’s remains with care and respect.

How Much Does Cremation Cost In New York State?

The cost of cremation in New York State varies based on several factors, including the location, the type of cremation service, and the services included in the package. On average, a basic cremation in New York State can cost between $1,000 and $3,000.

A basic cremation package typically includes the pick-up of the deceased, the cremation process, and the return of the ashes to the family. Additional services, such as a memorial service, an urn, or a cremation viewing, can add to the total cost.

Funeral homes and cremation providers in New York State offer a range of cremation packages, so it’s essential to compare costs and services before making a decision. Some providers offer direct cremation, which is a simple and affordable option that typically does not include a viewing or a funeral service.

It’s also important to note that cremation costs in New York State can vary widely depending on the location. In more urban areas, the cost of cremation may be higher, while in rural areas, the cost may be lower. Additionally, cremation costs can be impacted by other factors such as the size of the cremation chamber and the operating costs of the crematorium.

What Options Are Available If I Choose Cremation?

There would be no viewing of the body and no embalming or other preparation of the remains if you select direct cremation. Some crematories have a room open for memorial services, so you could still hold the event anywhere you wanted.

The body would be prepared as it would be for any funeral service if you did not opt for direct cremation. You might arrange for the body to be placed in a ceremonial casket, which is typically available for rental. The remains would be transferred to a container suited for cremation following the memorial service, and they would then be brought to the crematory for processing.

Where Can Bodies Be Buried In New York?

After reviewing the death certificate and determining that it is complete, the district’s registrar grants a burial or removal permit to the funeral home, allowing the body to be interred. Although burial on private land may be an option in New York, the majority of dead are interred in well-established cemeteries. (See the FAQ for the Division of Cemeteries in New York State.) Consult the town or county clerk and the neighborhood health department to learn about any requirements before conducting a home burial. If you want to bury a body on private property, you should create a map of the property that shows the burial site and include it with the property deed so that people in the community would know where to find it.

New York law also allows any individual to make a grant of land, by deed or at death, to be used as a family cemetery. The parcel may be as large as three acres and must not be located within 1,650 feet of a dwelling. For more information, see New York NPC Law § 1401(c) and contact your county clerk’s office.

Where Can We Store Or Scatter Ashes After Cremation In New York?

There are no governmental regulations governing the placement of ashes in New York. You can keep ashes at home in a crypt, niche, grave, or container. You have a variety of possibilities if you want to disperse ashes. There is no risk to the general public’s health associated with scattering cremated remains. Avoid scattering ashes where they might be visible to others and use common sense.

  • Scattering ashes in an established scattering garden. Many cemeteries provide gardens for scattering ashes. If you’re interested, ask the cemetery for more information.
  • Scattering ashes on private land. You are allowed to scatter ashes on your own private property. If you want to scatter ashes on someone else’s private land, it’s wise to get permission from the landowner.
  • Scattering ashes on public land. You may wish to check both city and county regulations and zoning rules before scattering ashes on local public land, such as in a city park. However, many people simply proceed without investigating the rules, letting their best judgment be their guide.
  • Scattering ashes on federal land. Officially, you should request permission before scattering ashes on federal land. As with local or state land, however, you will probably encounter no resistance if you conduct the scattering ceremony quietly and keep the ashes well away from trails, roads, facilities, and waterways. You can find guidelines for scattering ashes on the websites of some national parks. For more information, begin your search at the website of the National Park Service.
  • Scattering ashes at sea. The federal Clean Water Act requires that cremated remains be scattered at least three nautical miles from land. If the container will not easily decompose, you must dispose of it separately. The EPA does not permit scattering at beaches or in wading pools by the sea. Finally, you must notify the EPA within 30 days of scattering ashes at sea. The Clean Water Act also governs scattering in inland waters such as rivers or lakes. For inland water burial, you may be legally required to obtain a permit from the state agency that manages the waterway. For more information, including the contact information for the EPA representative in New York, see Burial of Human Remains at Sea on the EPA website.
  • Scattering ashes by air. While there are no state laws on the matter, federal aviation laws prohibit dropping anything that might harm people or property. The U.S. government does not consider cremains to be hazardous material, so all should be well so long as you remove the ashes from their container before scattering them.

Do I Need To Purchase Another Urn?

No, however, you may desire to purchase a formal container for display or interment. There are many types available ranging from keepsakes to companion urns. They come in many shapes and sizes and can be made from many different materials such as bronze, marble, concrete, wood, or glass.

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