Planning Guide for Mortuary and Funeral Arrangements

The information below has been reprinted with permission from the Arizona State Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers’ Consumer Guide to Arizona Funerals Information. The complete guide may be obtained by calling (602) 542-3095, from any funeral establishment, or by accessing the Arizona State Funeral Board website.

Cemetery Requirements

Costs may include cemetery plot, opening and closing of grave, grave liner or vault, and memorial or marker. Cemeteries usually require a minimum container/casket and some sort of protection to prevent the collapse of grave after burial.

Options include earth burial, entombment (placement of casket in a building called a mausoleum), or placement of cremated remains in a columbarium niche (a room or space in a mausoleum). For each option offered, cemeteries may have specific requirements concerning type of memorial or marker and minimum casket or container requirements.

Check with the cemetery of your choice to determine its requirements and related costs.

Cremation Requirements

Cremation is performed by placing the deceased in a combustible casket or container, that in turn, is placed in a cremation chamber and subjected to intense heat/flame. Bone fragments and dust are brushed from the chamber after cremation; however, it is impossible to remove all of the cremated remains. Because some dust and residue always remain in the chamber, there may be an inadvertent or incidental commingling of residue from previous cremations. This also may occur as a result of mechanically processing cremated remains.

Cremations must be authorized by the County Medical Examiner to ensure that any evidence of criminal activity is not destroyed.

State law requires that within 15 days the authorizing agent sign a form authorizing cremation. A legally competent adult may prepare a written statement directing the cremation or other lawful disposition of the legally competent adult’s remains. This written statement may, but need not be, part of the competent adult’s will. The legally competent adult shall sign and date the document. The document shall be notarized or witnessed in writing by at least one adult affirming that the notary or witness was present when the competent adult signed and dated the document and that the competent adult appeared to be of sound mind and free from duress at the time of execution of the document.

The document of immunity authorizes a crematory, cemetery or funeral establishment to carry out the wishes of a competent adult. It is not necessary for a crematory, cemetery or funeral establishment to obtain the consent or concurrence of any other person when it cremates or provides for the lawful disposition of a dead human body.

The legally competent adult must provide financial arrangements so a crematory, cemetery and funeral establishment can execute the adult’s wishes as expressed in the document.

If a dispute arises in a family and more than one person is legally entitled to make the disposition decision, a majority of those with the authority must consent to the cremation (example: majority of children or majority of siblings). If there is no disagreement, only one signature from someone in the “group” is required.

Unless arrangements are made with the funeral establishment, the authorizing agent is solely responsible for disposition of the cremated remains.

Cremated remains should be collected upon notice of availability. The crematory authority may dispose of the remains in a legal manner 120 days after the cremation or after agreed to pick-up date.

Cremated remains may be buried, entombed, placed in a niche, scattered over private land with permission of owner or over public property (may require permit), or remain in family’s possession, usually in an urn (wood, marble, or metal container).

Funeral Arrangements

After death, funeral arrangements must be made by an “authorizing agent”, even if prepaid.

Authorizing agents could be a spouse, someone identified in a healthcare power of attorney as having authority to make disposition arrangements, next of kin, or another responsible person as identified in A.R.S. 36-831. Importantly, if a spouse was legally separated from the descendant or if a petition for divorce or legal separation was pending at the time of death, the spouse cannot be the authorizing agent.

If requested, funeral establishments must provide information regarding funeral costs over the phone.

State law requires that the funeral establishment provide you with:

  • Consumer Guide to Arizona Funerals Information (this brochure)
  • General Price List before discussing funeral arrangements.
  • Casket Price List before entering a casket selection room (you also may be shown casket photographs or illustrations). Casket costs are separate from funeral service costs.
  • Outer Burial Container Price List before discussing purchase of outer burial containers from the establishment.

If you are an authorizing agent, you will be asked at funeral arrangement to sign a contract called a Statement of Funeral Goods and Service, which lists your selections. Read the contract before signing.

Contract includes a professional fee and other itemized charges. Total charges vary widely, so you may wish to compare with other establishments.

Authorizing agents are entitled to an explanation of each charge on the contract. You may change your selections before you sign the contract, or you may go elsewhere.

Funeral establishments may charge in advance for certain items (cash advances) that they purchase from a third party on your behalf. These items may include cemetery or crematory charges, obituary notices, death certificates, flowers, clergy, musician honoraria, and motorcycle escorts. State law prohibits charging more than the actual cost for these items without informing you that there is a service or handling fee.