Frequently Asked Questions

Click each question below to reveal its answer.

Funerals are a way to commemorate the life of a deceased individual and begin the grief process for those who remain—whether the person was a close relative, friend or some other significant relationship.  People say they experience a form of closure about their loss, even though the hurt may remain for some time.  Family and friends coming together at a time of loss is a way to support and comfort each other, and recognize that a loss has occurred.  People who do not have this type of closure report a longer time of grieving and healing.  In today’s world, funerals can be as individual and unique as you wish to make them.  They do not have to be “what is expected.”  Your funeral director can tailor a service to your exact needs and desires.

Funeral directors are the only licensed professionals who are trained and experienced in dealing with every single aspect of death and grieving, along with the practical requirements following a death. The funeral director’s most important role is helping you and your family.  Making any kind of funeral arrangement involves many choices and decisions.  Funeral service professionals give you information to help make choices that are right for you and your family—from emotional issues to practical steps involved in telling a loved one goodbye.  

On the practical side, funeral directors usually remove the deceased from the place of death, obtain all information for the death certificate and file it with the state, and help with related issues like veterans affairs, social security, insurance and similar considerations.  They help you in your decisions about services, burial or cremation and visitation, and then help you implement those decisions every step of the way.  After the service, he or she can help with additional suggestions to help you and your family deal with your grief.

In Georgia, individuals do not have to be embalmed in order to be buried or cremated.  However, many families choose embalming for a number of reasons.  

  • Embalming preserves the body, slows the decomposition process and enhances appearance of the deceased for loved ones who may be viewing him or her.  This is particularly important for open casket viewings or when families must travel a distance between viewing and time of death.

  • Embalming lengthens the time between death and final disposition.  

  • If a deceased is to be transported to a different state, the family may select embalming because some forms of
    transportation (such as common carriers) and some states require embalming.

Some funeral homes offer a refrigeration option so that a deceased may be held for a short time without embalming.

Cremation includes any mechanical, chemical, thermal, or other professionally accepted process whereby a deceased human being is reduced to what is commonly called “ashes.” The “ashes” are in fact tiny bone fragments made primarily of calcium phosphate and other trace minerals. 

Funeral services are the act of memorializing the deceased and celebrating their life and memory, separate  and distinct from what is done to the actual body.  Cremation is not an alternative for a funeral; instead, it is an alternative to burial of a full body in the ground or placement in a tomb above ground.  Cremated remains may also be buried, entombed, kept or scattered.  Unlike a body, cremated remains pose no health hazard. 

Yes.  Georgia laws are very strict concerning the treatment of the dead.  Reasons include law enforcement (to ensure no foul play caused death); public health (tracking communicable diseases, ensuring proper final handling of deceased remains), and appropriate paperwork related to end-of-life issues (social security, veterans affairs, life insurance, survivor benefits, etc).  The funeral director is familiar with all aspects of final disposition and related  legal issues.  In Georgia, the funeral director files the death certificate with the state after obtaining all appropriate signatures and required information.

The Georgia death certificate matches federal requirements for that document.  It is fairly detailed and requires a number of signatures.  Georgia law states that it should be available within 72 hours.  However, as a practical matter it frequently takes longer, depending on the circumstances of a person’s death and the organizations involved.  

Your funeral director will immediately start the death certificate process.  He or she must get several signatures, including that of any physician involved in the death.  The physician signature is the single greatest cause of delay in getting the certificate within the state, due to the overwhelmingly busy nature of medical practices and hospitals.  Please know that should this occur, the medical director of a facility is also allowed to sign.  

In coroner’s cases and/or criminal cases, sometimes it can take longer to determine cause of death.  This may also delay securing a death certificate.  A coroner’s case is any unattended death in a home, any accidental death or suicide, any death in a hospital within 24 hours of admission, any homicide or suspected homicide.  It is important for you and your family that coroners, law enforcement and/or medical examiners be given adequate time to thoroughly investigate the death of your loved one.

If you are displeased about any aspect of your experience, please first talk with your funeral director at the funeral home.  Many times, concerns can be handled quickly and to your satisfaction just by making the director aware.  Please don’t let the issue go unresolved or unreported.  Most funeral directors would much rather hear your concerns and work to resolve them.

Funeral directors and funeral homes are licensed through the Georgia Secretary of State, under the Georgia State Board of Funeral Service.  If your concern is serious and has not been resolved after talking to your director, you may file a complaint with the Board.  Please note that the Board deals only with complaints that could affect licensure.  Examples include refusing to transfer your loved one to a different funeral establishment when asked; holding a body in limbo until payment is made; improper accounting of prepaid funeral funds; or even not following the exact order of who has right of disposition, as long as the director has been told the truth about who that is.  

All complaints should be made to the Georgia State Board of Funeral Service .

Most Georgia counties have indigent care funds to be used for funerals along with indigent burial grounds, sometimes called “pauper burial space.”  The amount varies by county and typically does not cover the full amount.  Families may call the County Court Clerk or Probate Court in the county where the deceased lived for specific information.

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