NH Funeral Resources, Education & Advocacy
PO Box 456, Holderness NH 03245   603.236.9495
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Be an informed consumer — know your options
One of the keys to navigating the waters of loss, funerals, and disposition options is to plan ahead.                                                     
Funerals will be one of the most expensive purchases many of us make, right up there with our                                                               
first car, home, education, or other major expense. Here is some basic information to help you                                                                    
 to be better prepared:

Is it legal to do it yourself?
New Hampshire RSA 290 clearly spells out the right of next-of-kin, or an agent designated by                                                                     
him or her prior to death, to be responsible for taking custody and control of the body.                                                                           
This ensures families the right to conduct any and all funeral details, including filing any                                                                   
necessary paperwork, care of the body, and transportation.

Must a body be embalmed?
Embalming is NOT required in any state, and only three states require embalming to cross state                                                              
 lines (New Jersey, Alabama, Alaska). The practice is for cosmetic purposes only and has no health                                                               and safety properties whatsoever. In fact, bodies infected with untreatable contagious disease are                                                             
not candidates for embalming.

What can be done instead?
Simple, inexpensive cooling methods such as air conditioning, Techni-ice (available through Amazon) or dry ice (www.dryicedirectory.com), are sufficient for 1 to 3 days in the home or other appropriate venue. In fact, a body will hold for that long in a 65-70 degree room with no adverse outcomes under average circumstances. Many funeral homes do not provide refrigeration.

Who may complete the death certificate? 
The next-of-kin, a designated agent, or a funeral director may complete the death certificate, with information provided by the family in any case. It must be written clearly in black ink or typed, with no erasures, cross-outs or corrections. The information will then be transferred electronically by the Town Clerk or a funeral director to Vital Statistics. A Transit/Transport/Burial permit will then be generated that is required to accompany the body to final disposition.

What is the timeline for filing paperwork in New Hampshire?
NH law requires that the death certificate be signed by an authorized physician or hospice nurse within 36 hours. It then needs to be filed with the Town Clerk in the town of death or directly with the Office of Vital Statistics in Concord within 6 days. Likewise, the Transit/Transport/Burial Permit (which is generated upon filing the death certificate) must be signed by an authorized official (or next-of-kin in the case of home burial) and filed with the Town Clerk within 6 days.

Must a minister perform a service?
There is no legal requirement that clergy perform a service. Families may choose to create and conduct a unique and meaningful service themselves that celebrates and honors their family member, or invite clergy to participate. 

What do funerals cost?
The average modern funeral in the U.S. costs $8,343 (National Funeral Directors Association, 2012) for basic non-declinable fees, embalming, other preparation of the body, transportation, use of facilities and staff, an average metal casket, a concrete outer burial vault, and use of a hearse. It does NOT include a cemetery plot or opening and closing fees, cremation fees, medical examiner fee, obituaries, flowers, monuments, grave markers, musician or clergy honorariums to conduct funeral or memorial services. Other than the non-declinable fee, families may choose which services to purchase from funeral establishments.

Home funerals, direct cremations and immediate burials, and family-directed memorials, in contrast, may cost a fraction of that, depending on which services families wish to perform themselves. Families can also purchase locally made, bio-degradable caskets and urns directly from NH companies and artists, or make them themselves, at a significant cost savings.

What are Direct Cremations and Immediate Burials?
Both refer simply to the cremation or burial, without embalming, viewing, funeral or memorial services in the funeral home (you may have one elsewhere) or other incidentals such as flowers, prayer cards, etc. See What to Expect When Funeral Shopping for more information about what is included or call a funeral director to learn what services they include.

What NH Families Can Legally Do Themselves
  • next-of-kin may act as his or her own funeral director
  • the decedent may designate an agent to act in lieu of family prior to death
  • involve a funeral director for specific services (blended funeral)
  • care for the body at home whether the death is sudden or expected
  • bathe, dress and prepare the body naturally for visitation, lying in honor
  • use dry ice or Techni-Ice, air conditioning, cooler rooms
  • keep the body at home until final disposition, often 1-3 days 
  • invite family, friends, clergy, musicians, others to a service anywhere meaningful, 
          including in the home for an intimate private gathering
  • complete and file the death certificate with the Town Clerk in the town where death occurred
  • obtain the burial/transit permit and file it with the Town Clerk after disposition
  • make or purchase burial or cremation vessels from local artists or from a funeral establishment
  • make cremation or cemetery arrangements
  • transport the body to the crematory (in a leakproof pouch, and rigid cremation container or wood casket)
  • transport to the crematory or cemetery
  • publish obituaries online and in NH newspapers according to their requirements (usually a death certificate copy)
  • return signed burial permit to the Town Clerk within 6 days of disposition

Sample Paperwork
NH Death Certificate Worksheet  This is the information required for completing a NH death certificate. Whether you complete it yourself or a funeral director does, you are responsible for providing this information. Make it easier and do your homework early!

Cremation Authorization In order to have the deceased cremated, the next-of-kin or designated agent must complete and sign a cremation authorization that will look something like this.

Burial/Transit Permit Here is a sample Burial/Transit Permit for the state of North Dakota. General information will be the same in all states.
Coffin quilts are often used during visitations—unlined, small-sized to drape without bulky fabric
Body care demonstration with Sandy Booth of Crossings Care Circle