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Do I have to pay for this funeral
February 2, 2009 9:11 AM   Subscribe

Followup to previous post about requirements for next of kin paying for a funeral

This is a followup to a previous post.

Basically the story is this: I got a phone call from someone who said they were from a funeral home in Arizona, where my father lived before he recently passed away. They asked me how I would like to "take care of" my father's expenses, that being his burial or cremation. He explained that under Arizona state law (I live in New York) I was required to pay. I told them that I had never heard of them and never heard of such a law and that if I was legally required to pay I would, but they would have to send some documentation as such. If I legally owe money, I'm going to pay it. But someone can't just call me up and say "Hey, you owe me this money." In the meantime, I had posted on MeFi, and we had reasoned collectively that it must be some sort of scam, or at the very least, shady practices. According to this brochure, they are legally required to give me some information and explain my rights, which they didn't do. Instead they sent me this hostile letter, from the Maricopa County Public Fiduciary:

This letter serves as notification that the Maricopa County Public Fiduciary is making an effort to contact you to resolve the arrangements of your father. In the state of Arizona, the next of kin is legally responsible for the burial/cremation expenses. To date, these efforts have been unsuccessful and you have failed to comply with your responsibility.

The Maricopa County Public Fiduciary is able to seek reimbursement through legal civil action to recover two times the expenses of funeral arrangements per A.R.S. 36-831(F)

If you choose to ignore this notice, we will assume you have abandoned the body of your father and have failed to comply with your responsibility. Our office will then proceed accordingly.


I've contacted a lawyer and I'm waiting for more info. So far, they haven't even told me what I owe or anything. In the meantime, what do you guys think? As a New York resident, do I have to deal with this? Do Arizona laws apply to me?
posted by idledebonair to Law & Government (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
"Instead they sent me this hostile letter, from the Maricopa County Public Fiduciary:"

Did MCPF send the letter, or did the funeral home?

"f you choose to ignore this notice, we will assume you have abandoned the body of your father and have failed to comply with your responsibility. Our office will then proceed accordingly."

What's "our office"? MCPF or another entity?
posted by orthogonality at 9:33 AM on February 2, 2009


So you got the same letter as your uncle?
posted by jerseygirl at 9:41 AM on February 2, 2009


I am a funeral director, but I'm not YOUR funeral director, so here's my take on this:

If you choose to ignore this notice, we will assume you have abandoned the body of your father and have failed to comply with your responsibility.

I live in an area that is primarily impoverished, so this question comes up a lot: "My parent died. They had no money. I have no money. What do we do?" Within the state of Louisiana, what you'd be required to do is abandon the body. What that means is that you'd get a legal court document (usually the local coroner's office (ie. in Arizona) will help you with this.) that says you absolve yourself from any liability having to do with the death of this family member. You are unable to collect any insurance, receive any estate, or make any legal decisions for the deceased. The coroner's office will then cremate the body (the cheapest solution for them) and store the ashes. You will not be able to get these remains unless you pay for the cost of the cremation. The local community basically absorbs the cost of the services. The funeral home gets paid, and everyone is happy.

Again, this is what happens in Louisiana. I have no idea what the deal is with Arizona, as frankly, this is the first time I've heard about this. I'd be very surprised if abandoning the body is not a viable solution for the coroner's office. Please let me know how this comes out. Feel free to email me with any questions. I hope this helps.
posted by ColdChef at 9:52 AM on February 2, 2009


FWIW, here's a link to the relevant Arizona statute:
F. A person on whom the duty prescribed in subsection A of this section is imposed who omits or is unwilling to perform that duty within a reasonable time or is prohibited from performing that duty under subsection G of this section is liable to the person performing the duty in an amount of two times the expenses the person incurred in providing for the burial or other funeral and disposition arrangements. The person who performs this duty may recover this amount in a civil action.
posted by Knappster at 10:35 AM on February 2, 2009


@orthogonality: the guy on the phone representing the funeral home said he would mail me a letter, however the letter came from MCPF. "Our office" must mean MCPF.

@jerseygirl: I think so. I'm not incredibly close with him, but I will try to confirm that.
posted by idledebonair at 10:39 AM on February 2, 2009


You definitely need to check with your uncle. Tell him you've got a lawyer in regards to this issue and ask him to send you a copy of everything he has received so you can give it to your lawyer.
posted by jerseygirl at 2:55 PM on February 2, 2009


Yes, it is the same letter.
posted by idledebonair at 6:55 PM on February 2, 2009


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