Frequently Asked Questions about Cremation
Regulated by Not for Profit Corporation Law Article15 and 19 NYCRR Part 203
What is cremation?
Cremation means the technical process, using heat and flame that reduces the human remains to bone fragments and other residue. Cremation includes the processing, and may include pulverization, of such bone fragments and other residue so no fragment can be identified as skeletal tissue.
Are all crematories in New York State regulated by the State?
Yes. However of the 50 active crematories, 45 are operated by not-for-profit corporations, 4 are operated by municipalities and 1 is operated by a religious organization. We oversee all the crematories operated by not-for-profit corporations and have limited jurisdiction over the other crematories.
What laws and regulations apply to crematories?
Article 15 of the Not-for-Profit Corporation Law applies to all not-for-profit cemeteries and section 1517 of that article imposes specific requirements on crematories. There are also environmental laws, public health laws and various regulations that apply to crematories.
New York has some of the strictest standards for the operation of a crematory and is one of the few states that require crematory operators to be certified by an organization approved by the Division of Cemeteries. Not for Profit Corporation Law section 1517 also imposes the following duties and obligations on crematories.
- They must maintain privacy and be maintained in a clean, orderly and sanitary manner with adequate ventilation.
- Only authorized persons are allowed to be present in the cremation area while cremation is taking place or in the temporary storage facility while remains are in storage.
- A proper cremation permit and authorization form must be completed and submitted before the crematory can accept remains for cremation.
- Each crematory must have a written plan that details how the identification of the remains are assured throughout the process from receipt of the remains to delivery of the cremated remains.
- Once remains are received by a crematory, the container in which they are delivered may not be opened by anyone without prior written authorization.
- After each cremation the inside of the cremation unit must be swept thoroughly so as to render the chamber reasonably free of all matter so that the remains of different persons are not commingled.
Is a Funeral Director necessary?
Yes, a New York licensed and registered funeral director affiliated with a New York registered funeral firm makes the funeral arrangements, supervises the removal of remains from the place of death, files the death certificate with the proper authority, obtains the cremation permit, obtains the authorization for cremation and supervises the transportation of remains to the crematory.
Do I have a choice of a crematory facility?
Yes, if you make funeral arrangements before your death, you can choose which crematory will be used. If funeral arrangements are not made before death, the person who has control over the body of the deceased – usually a surviving spouse, child or other family member – has the right to choose which crematory will be used. You have the right to contact crematories and visit them so that you can compare the facility, the prices they charge, and whether it meets your needs and requirements. Also keep in mind that New York rules and regulations apply only to New York crematories. We cannot give you any assurance that an out-of-state crematory meets the same stringent requirements that a New York crematory must meet.
Can I sign my own cremation authorization?
No. While you can make pre arrangements to be cremated, the cremation authorization must be signed by an authorizing agent as defined in Section 4201 of the Public Health Law. This person must also attest that any medical implants have been removed.
What happens to medical implants?
If remains contain a pacemaker or other medical or radioactive implant the person in control of the remains must make arrangements to have those items removed before the remains are delivered to a crematory. The crematory will require a signed statement that the remains do not contain such implants and may refuse to cremate remains if the statement is not provided. If these medical implants are not removed, they can cause environmental harm and can harm the crematory and crematory personnel.
Can keepsakes be put in the casket to be cremated with the decedent?
No, personal items may not be placed with the remains. Crematories are only permitted to cremate human remains and are not permitted to incinerate foreign material.
What do the ‘Ashes’ look like?
Cremated remains don’t really look like ashes. After the body is cremated, what is usually left are bone fragments, the remains of the container which held the human remains and the residue of any materials or foreign matter that may have been cremated with the human remains. Metallic material is removed and the cremated remains are then pulverized until no fragment can be identified as skeletal remains. The final remains are typically granular and grayish-white in color.
Who regulates emissions from the crematories?
The emissions of all New York State crematories are regulated by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Crematories are required to maintain a maintenance report which is submitted to the DEC and to the Division of Cemeteries.
Is Embalming Necessary?
No, embalming is not required by New York State Law; however, depending on the type of memorial service chosen, the individual funeral firm may require it.
Is a Casket Necessary?
No, there is no requirement that a casket be used, however remains must be obscured from public view while transported. New York regulation does require that remains are delivered to a crematory in a leak-proof, rigid, combustible container that completely encloses the human remains. There are many suitable containers available in the industry.
What options are available if I choose cremation?
You can choose direct cremation which means that there would be no viewing of the body and no embalming or other preparation of the remains. You could still have a memorial service at your place of choosing, some crematories have a room available for memorial services.
If you do not choose direct cremation, the body would be prepared as it would be for any funeral service. You may request that the body be displayed in a ceremonial casket which usually can be rented. After the memorial service is completed, the remains would be moved to a container suitable for cremation and then delivered to the crematory for processing.
If I choose cremation can my family view the procedure?
Most crematories will allow family viewing of the placement of the deceased in the cremation unit and the starting of the cremation process.
What are the cremated remains put in after cremation?
The cremated remains are placed in a temporary container after cremation. Typically the crematory will put the remains in a heavy duty plastic bag which is then put into a rigid cardboard container. In most cases the cremated remains are delivered in one sealed and labeled container along with a cremation certificate which provides the name of the decedent, date of cremation and the place of cremation.
Do I need to purchase another Urn?
No, however, you may desire to purchase a formal container for display or interment. There are many types available ranging from keepsakes to companion urns. They come in many shapes and sizes and can be made from many different materials such as bronze, marble, concrete, wood, or glass.
What do I do with the cremated remains after I receive them back from the crematory?
Final arrangements for cremated remains may take many forms. One option is burial of the cremated remains in a cemetery. Another option is placing the remains in an above ground niche or columbarium. The niches usually have a solid or glass front on which the name and dates of birth and death may be engraved. Some cemeteries also have a scattering area for cremated remains. If a cemetery will be used for permanent disposition, you should first consult the cemetery’s Rules and Regulations to see what is or is not permitted.
Another alternative is to keep the remains at home. In this case, the person keeping the remains should plan for where the remains will go after he or she dies.
A third alternative is to scatter the remains at sea or on private grounds with the permission of the landowner. Scattering on public land may be prohibited or may be allowed only by written permit. You must check with the appropriate authority before scattering cremated remains.
I already have a grave at the cemetery, how many cremations are allowed in a grave?
Before purchasing an urn, companion urn or memorial it is most important to contact the individual cemetery to avoid disappointment and confusion. Each cemetery has its own rules and regulations regarding how many interments are allowed in a grave or lot and how a burial may be memorialized. You should contact the cemetery directly to discuss the options that are available. You should also inquire about the fees charged by a cemetery for interment of and memorialization of cremated remains. Many cemeteries need to know at the time the lot is purchased whether cremation interments are anticipated.