Basic Decisions

Making the basic decisions  

For the person handling disposition arrangements (usually the next-of-kin), there are some decisions to be made:

What level of help do you desire to accomplish the necessary activities? 

  • At one end of the spectrum, a funeral director can make most of the arrangements, in consultation with the family. 
  • At the other end, the family can opt for home death care, managing all the arrangements, including moving and transporting the body, and filing all the necessary paperwork (including attending physician's information).  
  • In between is family-managed death care with the help of a home funeral consultant or a willing funeral director.

Choose between burial and cremation.  This must be done by a person who has the right to control the disposition of the remains. In Massachusetts, that right goes first to the deceased (for decisions documented in advance), then to a spouse, then adult children, then other next-of-kin as specified by law; for details, see Massachusetts law about burial, cremation, and funerals). Note that the option to donate the whole body to a medical school may not available at this point unless previous arrangements had been made. 

If burial, consider whether "green" burial (natural burial in simple box or shroud) or conventional burial (typically with casket plus concrete vault) is desired. Check with the cemetery about what is allowed. In western Massachusetts some town cemeteries and some church-run cemeteries allow green burials. See Green Burial Massachusetts for more information. 

Choose a final resting place for the remains.  

These are only the very basic and immediate decisions. There will be many more. The national Funeral Consumers Alliance website has excellent information to help get you through this process.