What are my rights?

Rights differ from state to state.

Your Funeral Consumer Rights in Maine

2013 Funeral Ethics Organization 87 Upper Access Rd. Hinesburg, VT 05461 funeralethics.org

For complete information on the State of Maine regulations and for other states visit: http://www.funerals.org

Funeral Arrangements

You may name an agent for body disposition if you want someone other than your next-of- kin to be in charge.

It is legal for a family or designated agent to handle everything without a funeral director. To find a home funeral guide, check: http://homefuneraldirectory.com/

If you will be using a funeral home, prices must be given over the telephone. You must be given a General Price List (GPL) if you visit in person and before discussing any services.

You must be shown a Casket and Outer Burial Container Price List before selecting either.

You must be given a Statement of Funeral Goods and Services Selected with the total cost before any services are provided.

The Funeral Consumers Alliance of Maine does a price survey periodically: www.funerals.org

Do not sign any contract for more than you can afford to pay. If the deceased was indigent, there may be limited municipal funds. There is no other organization that assists with costs.


If the death was unexpected or the cause of death uncertain, the state will probably require an autopsy.

If you have questions about the death, you may request and pay for a private autopsy.

If a viewing is planned, there will likely be extra charges to repair the body for embalming.

Organ, Body, and Tissue Donation

If death occurs in the hospital, you are likely to be asked about organ donation. Only about 1% of the deaths are eligible for major organ donation. The organ procurement organization (OPO) will pay for any extra body preparation needed if you plan a viewing. Decline any such charge you might find on the GPL.

After-death donation of eyes, skin, and long bones may be considered. Ask the hospital social worker or the funeral director about this.

Whole body donation to a medical school is one way to lower costs. After study, the school will cremate the body and return the cremated remains to the family if requested. You should have back-up funeral plans if your body cannot be accepted for any reason.

There are also non-academic companies that accept whole bodies for research and education. Various body parts will likely be shipped around the country and possibly internationally. The state has no laws regulating these companies. Note that this is an entirely different category of body donation from the traditional cadaver donation to a medical school.

To find the nearest body donation option, the cost if any, and the reasons for body rejection check: www.finalrights.org

Embalming and Other Requirements

Embalming is not required in this state for typical funeral arrangements.

Bodies to be shipped by common carrier must be embalmed or in an airtight container.

Many funeral homes have a policy that requires embalming for a public viewing. Embalming does not protect the public health. It merely delays decomposition.

Caskets and Vaults

Neither is required by state law for burial. A rigid combustible container is required for cremation.

A casket will not prevent natural decomposition.

You may build your own or purchase from a casket retailer. Vault dealers rarely sell to the public.

The purpose of a vault is to keep the ground from caving in. It facilitates maintenance for the cemetery. It has no preservative qualities regardless of how much you spend.


Family burial grounds of not more than a quarter of an acre are protected as a “burial place forever.” If you wish to set up a family cemetery, check local zoning. It must be 200 feet from a water supply and 100 feet from a house. A good practice is 25 feet from a power line with two or three feet of earth on top. You must draw a map showing where the family cemetery will be and have it recorded with the deed. A fence or other markers are also required.

If you purchase a lot in a commercial, town, or religious cemetery, you will have the opening and closing costs in addition to the cost of the plot.

Some cemeteries have restrictions on the kind of monuments or plantings and adornment allowed.

A disinterment permit can be obtained from a local clerk.

Cremation or Burial at Sea

There is a 48-hour wait prior to cremation.
A medical examiner’ s permit is required.
A pacemaker must be removed.
Some crematories will let the family witness the cremation.
The cremation process takes about two-and-a-half hours for an average adult. The staff will remove any metal and pulverize the bone fragments to small particles, similar to white or gray coarse sand, about 5-10 pounds.

Cremated remains may be kept at home, scattered or buried on private land with the landowner’s permission, interred in a cemetery or memorial garden, or placed in a mausoleum niche. If scattering on public land or water, don’t ask, don’t tell. Park service people are concerned that some may want to create a little shrine at the site and would prefer not to know your plans. Be discreet. The Environ- mental Protection Agency (EP A) says they must be scattered three miles out to sea. That’s because the federal agency has no jurisdiction over the first three miles; the bordering state does. Most states (except for California and South Dakota) have no restrictions on the dis- position of cremated remains, and there are no “cremains police” even in those two states. Do as you wish.

If flying with cremated remains, be sure they are in a non-metal container to pass through the scanner.
Cremated remains may be sent only by U.S. Postal Service. Use Priority Mail Express with delivery confirmation. FedEx and UPS will not knowingly accept cremated remains.

All cremations must be in a licensed crematory.

Crematories are registered with the Department of Health.

Veterans and Their Dependents

You will need a copy of the DD214 discharge papers for gaining benefits.

The VA cemetery in Togus is closed to new interments. There are four state-run veterans cemeteries: in Augusta (two, but one does only cremated remains), Springvale, and Caribou. Interment and marker are free of charge for the veteran, spouse, and certain depend- ants.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides markers for veterans no matter where they are interred. Markers can be up- right or flat, and they come in bronze, marble, and granite: (800) 697-6947.

A free flag can be ordered through the U.S. Postal Service.

A comprehensive list of veterans benefits can be found here:

Veterans- funeral-and-burial-benefits

The Maine Board of Funeral Service has eight members, three of whom are consumer representatives. 


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