WHAT IS A CONVENTIONAL FUNERAL?
What is a Conventional Funeral? (en español)
A conventional funeral generally consists of the following elements:
Embalming of the deceased with a formaldehyde-containing fluid
Viewing of the deceased at a funeral home
Service at the funeral home or a church
Transportation of the deceased to the cemetery by the funeral home
Conventional burial of the deceased in a cemetery with a grave liner and casket
See the links above for more information regarding the process and environmental impact of embalming and conventional burial.
To see prices for a conventional funeral in your area, please review the price survey. Our price survey provides the cost of a full funeral service at funeral homes in each county and includes nine (9) select goods and services. The cost of a full funeral service that is shown in our price survey does not include the cost of a casket. Instead, we have listed the least expensive casket offered by the funeral home separately in our price survey because consumers are not obligated to purchase a casket from the funeral home and may choose to select a casket from a vendor of their choice.
The full funeral service in our price survey includes the following:
The basic service fee for the funeral director and staff, including overhead costs (also referred to as the non-declinable fee)
Transport of the deceased from the place of death
Other preparation of the body, such as dressing, casketing, cosmetology
Use of facilities and staff for viewing for at least 4 hours
Use of facilities and staff for chapel service at funeral home
Accompaniment of casketed remains to a local cemetery and supervision of graveside ceremony
Hearse to transport the body to the cemetery
Handling of flowers (service vehicle)
The full funeral service cost does not include a casket, a grave space or plot, opening and closing a grave, a grave liner (which is not required by law but is almost always required by cemeteries to keep the ground from sinking in and simplifying grounds maintenance), an obituary, flowers, services of clergy, organist, vocalist, or other musicians, a police escort, or any other service or product not described above. The charges for these additional costs must be added to the cost of the funeral to get a true understanding of the total cost of a full funeral service and burial.
The Funeral Rule is a law enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It was passed in 1984 in response to individuals and organizations concerned about the unethical practices occurring in the funeral industry and the rising costs of funerals. The Funeral Rule is designed to protect consumers by requiring funeral directors to meet certain obligations to consumers, and consumers are entitled to certain rights.
Under the Funeral Rule, consumers are allowed to pick and choose the services they want. Consumers must be given a general price list that includes language required by the Funeral Rule and the consumer must be allowed to keep the price list. Under the Funeral Rule you may also call and request specific price information.
The American funeral industry was able to weaken some of the clauses in the Funeral Rule and there are definite improvements to be made to the legislation. The Funeral Consumers Alliance is currently in the process of drafting proposed changes on behalf of consumers.
The Cemetery and Funeral Bureau, under the Department of Consumer Affairs, is responsible for the oversight and licensing of funeral establishments, funeral directors, embalmers, crematories, and cemeteries.
The Cemetery and Funeral Bureau has an excellent website containing helpful information for consumers, including a consumer guide, a link to file complaints electronically, and a license verification search.
Your Funeral Consumer Rights in California
The legal authority for Californians to care for their own dead is located in the California statutes, Chapter 3, section 7100 (note there is nothing in these statutes that require you to use a funeral director):
(a) The right to control the disposition of the remains of a deceased person, the location and conditions of interment, and arrangements for funeral goods and services to be provided, unless other directions have been given by the decedent pursuant to Section 7100.1, vests in, and the duty of disposition and the liability for the reasonable cost of disposition of the remains devolves upon, the following in the order named:
(1) An agent under a power of attorney for health care who has the right and duty of disposition under Division 4.7 (commencing with Section 4600) of the Probate Code, except that the agent is liable for the costs of disposition only in either of the following cases:
(A) Where the agent makes a specific agreement to pay the costs of disposition.
(B) Where, in the absence of a specific agreement, the agent makes decisions
concerning disposition that incur costs, in which case the agent is liable only for
the reasonable costs incurred as a result of the agent's decisions, to the extent
that the decedent's estate or other appropriate fund is sufficient.
(2) The competent surviving spouse.
(3) The sole surviving competent adult child of the decedent, or if there is more than
one competent adult child of the decedent, the majority of the surviving competent
adult children. However, less than the majority of the surviving competent adult
children shall be vested with the right and duties of this section if they have used
reasonable efforts to notify all other surviving competent adult children of their
instructions and are not aware of any opposition to those instructions by the majority
of all surviving competent adult children.
(4) The surviving competent parent or parents of the decedent. If one of the surviving
competent parents is absent, the remaining competent parent shall be vested with the
rights and duties of this section after reasonable efforts have been unsuccessful in
locating the absent surviving parent.
(5) The sole surviving competent adult sibling of the decedent, or if there is more than one
surviving competent adult sibling of the decedent, the majority of the surviving competent
adult siblings. However, less than the majority of the surviving competent adult siblings
shall be vested with the rights and duties of this section if they have used reasonable
efforts to notify all other surviving competent adult siblings of their instructions and are not
aware of any opposition to those instructions by the majority of all surviving competent
(6) The surviving competent adult person or persons respectively in the next degrees of
kinship, or if there is more than one surviving competent adult person of the same degree
of kinship, the majority of those persons. Less than the majority of surviving competent
adult persons of the same degree of kinship shall be vested with the rights and duties of
this section if those persons have used reasonable efforts to notify all other surviving
competent adult persons of the same degree of kinship of their instructions and are not
aware of any opposition to those instructions by the majority of all surviving competent
adult persons of the same degree of kinship.
Burial must occur in an established cemetery, so if you are thinking about burying on your personal property you will need to check with the county registrar for local zoning laws. Interestingly, there is a California statute that states that six or more bodies buried in one place - not the cremated remains of six - constitutes a "cemetery." We will leave that one to your imagination.
Local municipalities are given jurisdiction over cemetery matters, and it will be up to local officials to approve home burial in rural areas. See statute 8115 for more information.
Disposition of Cremated Remains
In California, you may choose any of the following methods of disposition of cremated remains:
Placement in a columbarium or mausoleum - There may be additional charges for endowment care, opening or closing, recording, flower vase, and nameplate.
Burial in a plot in a cemetery - There may be additional charges for endowment care, opening or closing, recording, outer burial container, flower vase, and marker.
Retention at a residence - The funeral establishment or crematory will have you sign a Permit for Disposition showing that the remains were released to you and will file it with the local registrar of births and deaths. You may not remove the cremated remains from the container and you must arrange for their disposition upon your death.
Storing in a house of worship or religious shrine if local zoning laws allow.
Scattering in areas of the State where no local prohibition exists and with written permission of the property owner or governing agency. The cremated remains must be removed from the container and scattered in a manner so they are not distinguishable to the public.
Scattering in a cemetery scattering garden.
Scattering at sea, at least 500 yards from shore. (This also includes inland navigable waters, except for lakes and streams.) Cremated remains may not be transported without a permit from the county health department and they may not be disposed of in refuse.
Funeral Ethics Organization Pamphlet on California State Funeral Law
Complying with the Funeral Rule (an instructive guide for funeral establishments on how to comply with the Funeral Rule).