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. (See helpful directory.)
Choose between burial and cremation. This must be done by a person who has the right to control the disposition of the remains. Note that the option to donate the whole body to a medical school is not available at this point unless previous arrangements have been made.
If burial, consider whether "green" burial (natural burial in simple box or shroud) or conventional burial (typically with coffin 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 our Green Burial Committee's website for more information.
Choose a final resting place for the remains.