1. Is there an organization where I can file a complaint against a funeral home or cemetery? You can file a complaint with the Texas Funeral Service Commission (TFSC). You can find the complaint forms online at their site here. While the TFSC may claim that it does not have jurisdiction of such a problem, they may take the position that they can help you. Whatever they do, such complaints will eventually get to the Texas Legislature and can be used to show why families need better cemetery regulation in Texas. The link to the TFSC complaint procedure and form:
2. My parent has a preneed contract in another state. She/he now lives in Texas. What do we do now? The ability to use the contract depends largely on four things: (1) What does the contract say about its transferability or revocability? (2) What are the laws of the state in which it was written concerning transferability or revocability? (3) Was it insurance-funded or trust-funded? (4) Was it purchased by a funeral conglomerate that owns funeral homes in many states?
If the contract terms allow the contract to be transferred, then transferring it to a nearby funeral home may be the best option. If the contract allows it to be revoked, this should be considered taking into account how much of the money paid will be returned. Sometimes, enough money can be recovered and put aside in a special account to pay for funeral services offered in the local area through a memorial society or a funeral consumers alliance that has negotiated discount prices for its members.
The law of the state where the contract was entered may allow either transferability or revocation of the contract. If so, the issues in the above paragraph should be considered.
If the contract was insurance-funded, the policy can be taken to a funeral home near the person’s new residence and they can tell you if they will be able to perform the services using the insurance policy for payment. If the contract was trust-funded, the laws of the state where it was entered into will control the transferability of the contract.
If the contract was arranged through Service Corporation International (SCI) or another funeral conglomerate with funeral homes in many states, a local funeral home owned by that corporation will likely be able to perform the services under the terms of the original contract.
Finally, contact the local memorial society and learn whether it has funeral options that will save money no matter what can be done with the preneed contract.
3. Friends in another state want to know if there is a local funeral consumers alliance where they live. How do they find out? To see a list of all the local funeral consumer alliances in the country, go to www.funerals.org and click on the tab for “Find a Local FCA.”
4. I completed my advance planning forms in another state; are they good in Texas? General advance planning forms transfer from state to state. However, to be certain, we suggest updating your forms in the state where you are currently living.
5. Does a body need to be embalmed? My father will be buried in another Texas city–does he have to be embalmed for transport? A body must be kept cool (between 34 and 40 degrees) beginning 24 hours after death, or it must be encased in a leak-proof and odor-proof container, or it must be embalmed. Embalming is one of the three options, but there is no law which requires you to choose embalming. For transport to another city, a refrigerated vehicle or dry ice can also be used to satisfy the temperature requirement or encasement of the body can be chosen.
6. Do any medical research organizations or universities in Texas accept whole body donations? Yes. Please see this chart and be sure to read the section that follows on informed consent.
7. I’m a Veteran. What are my benefits? Please visit the Veterans Administration Burial and Memorial Benefits Website. The site also includes information about VA cemeteries. Link: www.cem.va.gov
8. Where do I store my advance planning documents? We recommend storing your advance planning documents in your refrigerator or freezer; not in a safety deposit box. In addition, make sure you tell someone where to locate your documents in case you are unable to speak for yourself.
9. What is a green burial? In general, when speaking about green burial, we are referring to a field or woodland burial, complemented by the use of an outer burial container made from biodegradable materials, such as cardboard, wood, or a cloth shroud (burial containers made of grass or other biodegradable containers are now available). As usually conceived, the environment of green burial grounds is kept as wild and as natural as possible. Memorials and headstones are generally not permitted, though small ground-level markers may be. Often memorial trees can be planted to mark the grave. No embalming is usually allowed. The dignity of any service is not compromised by these arrangements and indeed the simplicity of the service can add to its meaning for many.
Many rural and small-town cemeteries will allow ecologically-friendly burials, but they do not strive to maintain the surroundings in their natural state.
10. Can I bury a body on private property? For information on this topic, see: http://www.txca.us/Resources/Documents/ESTABLISHING%20A%20FAMILY%20CEMETERY.pdf.
11. Do I have to pay for the funeral package if I don’t want all the items itemized? By law funeral homes are required to itemize the goods and services they provide on a General Price List (GPL). Most offer package funerals that purport to save families money over the cost of each itemized good or service that is included in the package. If you choose a package funeral, most funeral homes will not give you credit for any good or service included in the package which you do not want. While you don’t have to accept any good or service you don’t want, you will be paying for it in the package price. Always add up the cost of each good and service offered in the package using the GPL to make sure you are actually receiving a discount by purchasing a package. If items you don’t want are expensive, you may pay less by purchasing the goods and services you want directly from the GPL and ignoring the package funerals offered.
12. Do I need to complete a Living Will? What was formerly called a Living Will in Texas is now called the “Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates.” This important document is designed to help the individual communicate his or her wishes about medical treatment at some future time when, due to incapacity, the individual is unable to personally make his/her wishes known. These wishes are usually based on personal values. While important, the Directive does not take precedence over the Texas form “Medical Power of Attorney for Health Care” (Medical POA), a highly important document that provides for naming an agent to whom authority is assigned for making a broad range of health care decisions for the individual. No advance directive is more important than the Medical POA. Legislation establishing and renaming what was formerly called the “Living Will” as the “Directive to Physicians and Surrogates” was done so to avoid ongoing confusion with wills that have to do with estate planning and not medical decision making.