IMPORTANT PUBLIC INFORMATION DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many aspects of our society have changed; from the way we interact in public, the way we shop to even the way we grieve. Funeral Service practitioners throughout the state made necessary adjustments to meet the new social distancing restrictions; requirements of guidelines which continue to be fluid and ever changing. Now, as the state is starting to re-open for some business, funeral homes will make their own determination regarding their temporary guest restrictions due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in their community to ensure the health and safety of frontline staff members, the families in need and the general public. It is the commitment of the Texas Funeral Service Commission to protect the interest of all consumers. We have provided general recommendations to licensed funeral establishments as to how they may proceed with offering their different types of services.
UNLICENSED FUNERAL BUSINESS
Individuals and establishments must be licensed by the Commission in order to provide funeral services and goods for compensation. A consumer can verify an individual/establishment is licensed in Texas by visiting the License Search and Verification page.
Many consumers now use the Internet to search for a funeral provider. Please know that many funeral providers advertise services in Texas but do not hold a Texas-based license and may not even have a physical presense in the state. The Commission has very limited jurisdiction to help resolve any complaint against this unlicensed activity. Prior to paying or agreeing to pay for funeral services, consumers are urged to check the Commission website to ensure the entity is licensed in Texas.
DISCIPLINARY ACTION (from September 1, 2017)
The following chart provides a list of licensees who have been proven to commit a violation of the Commission's laws. The report starts with violations proven after September 2017. For information on cases prior to September 2017, please contact the Commission office.
CEMETERIES IN TEXAS
A cemetery is defined by law as a place that is used or intended to be used for interment, and includes a graveyard, burial park, mausoleum, or any other area containing one or more graves. The Commission does not license or regulate cemeteries. There are several chapters of the Texas Health & Safety Code that govern cemeteries. Types of Cemeteries:
- Perptual Care Cemetery - Cemeteries established after September 1, 1993, are required to be licensed through the Special Audits Division of the Department of Banking as a perpetual care cemetery, if the cemetery does not meet one of the exceptions as outlined in Chapter 712 of the Texas Health & Safety Code. A cemetery operating with a Certificate of Authority issued by the Department means that a perpetual care fund for its maintenance has been established in conformity with the laws of the State of Texas. The Department is responsible to ensure trust funds are properly deposited and that only the income from the trust is withdrawn to pay for the general maintenance and care of the cemetery property.
- Community Cemetery not larger than 10 acres
- Not for Profit Cemetery (Owned by an unincorporated association of plot owners)
- Public Cemetery (owned/operated by state, city or county)
- Church/Religous Cemetery
Green Burials - Natural burial, or green burial, is a burial with minimal impact on the environment. It provides a way of caring for the dead to aid in the conservation of natural resources, reduction of carbon emissions, protection of worker health, and the restoration and/or preservation of habitat. A green burial can take place in a dedicated green cemetery or natural preserve. If cemetery rules allow, a more natural burial can be practiced in a conventional cemetery by allowing a wood, biodegradable casket, shroud to come into contact with the earth. If an outer-burial container is required by the cemetery, it may be turned upside down without a lid to allow the casket to degrade naturally. Check wth your licensed funeral director for assistance in working with a cemetery to plan a green burial.
Establishing a Family Cemetery - Texas laws regarding the establishment of family cemeteries are vague. The Texas Cemeteries Association has prepared an informative handout that answers questions about establishing a family cemetery on private property.
FACTS ABOUT FUNERALS
Texas statute requires the TFSC to prepare a brochure explaining matters relating to funerals and describing procedures for filing a complainant. Each funeral establishment is required to provide the "Facts About Funerals" brochure to all prospective customers when funeral services are discussed.
Funeral Establishments can order the TFSC-printed "Fact About Funerals" brochure by completing a Publication Order Form.
MILITARY FUNERAL HONORS
Anyone providing Military Funeral Honors for an eligible veteran should visit the Department of Defense website for information on how to provide those honors. The website serves as a resource tool for funeral directors as they assist veterans' families by arranging Military Funeral Honors. The core elements of the Funeral Honors ceremony, which will be conducted on request, include: Flag Folding, Flag Presentation and the Playing of Taps. If the family of an eligible veteran requests Funeral Honors through their funeral director, the funeral director should contact the appropriate Military Service to arrange for the Funeral Honors detail. The Department of Defense has established a toll free line (1-877-MIL-HONR) for use only by Funeral Directors to request honors. The Services request at least 48-hours in order to organize the Funeral Honors detail.
TEXAS STATE VETERANS CEMETERY
Veterans are eligible to be buried in a Texas State Veterans Cemetery. Funeral homes should work with the families who choose to have their loved ones buried in a Texas State Veterans Cemetery to determine the type of interment the family wishes. Options to be considered are a full-casketed burial, in-ground burial of cremated remains, a columbarium niche for cremated remains, or the scattering of ashes in the memorial garden. The funeral home should ask the family to provide a copy of the military discharge form (DD Form 214) or other military service documents to ensure eligibility. If the funeral is for the spouse of a veteran, the funeral home should request a copy of the marriage certificate. The funeral home should contact the family’s Veterans cemetery of choice and make all ofthe arrangements for the burial service. Although viewing facilities are not available at the cemetery, and funeral services cannot be held at Texas State Veterans Cemeteries, a family may request that a final committal service be performed. Military Honors are performed during these committal services. Committal services are held in committal shelters, followed by burial at the grave site. Floral arrangements will accompany the casket or urn from the committal shelter to the grave site. Some families may have retained cremated remains and wish to place them at a Texas State Veterans cemetery. If this is the case, the family may contact the cemetery directly, without going through a funeral home. Contact the Veterans Land Board toll free at 1-800-252-VETS (8387) for questions.
DISPOSITION OF REMAINS
Chapter 711 of the Texas Health and Safety Code outlines who has the right to control the disposition of a decedent's body. Under the statute, a person has the right to designate how to dispose of his or her remains. The following form outlines the substantial information that should be included when providing a written designation to control disposition.
PRENEED FUNERAL CONTRACTS
The Texas Department of Banking (DOB) regulates trust-funded prepaid funeral merchandise or services. Prepaid funeral merchandise and services are defined as goods and services sold on a prepaid basis directly to the public for use in connection with future funeral services. Along with the normal funeral service items, prepaid funeral merchandise and services also include opening and closing of the grave and outer-burial containers. The term does not include a grave, marker, monument, tombstone, crypt, niche, plot, or lawn crypt unless it is sold in contemplation of trade for a funeral service or funeral merchandise. Any funeral home or cemetery that sells trust funded prepaid funeral merchandise or services in Texas must have: (1) a trust-funded permit issued by the DOB or (2) sell through an insurance-funded permit holder.
The Texas Department of Insurance regulates providers who sell insurance-funded prepaid funeral merchandise or services.
Consumers are encouraged to check with the appropriate state agency to ensure the funeral home is licensed to sell pre-need contracts!