Life at a funeral home-Yes, Death Certificates…Again

Yep, I know… how much can I possibly bitch about death certificates? ALOT! Because people are a pain in the ass about them!
Yes, I understand that you need them. You want them for legal matters, financial matters and to know cause of death.
The funeral home will get the INFORMANT however many certified copies they want, need, AND PAY FOR! We tell you during arrangements how much they are (depending on the city in which death occurred, it is filed at that specific clerks office and each clerk in each city has their cost for death certificates). Now, if you have a life ins policy and you want the funeral home to accept an assignment on that policy for payment of services, then more then likely the ins co. will require a cert death certificate to be sent to them along with anything else they need. Now what I don’t understand is this; A family wants us to take an assignment on a life ins policy for payment, we explain that we will contact the ins co and find out if they will accept a funeral home assignment, gather the info they will require from us and we ask how we are to get the claim forms.. 90% of the time the life ins co will require a CERTIFIED copy of the death cert. Now, since we are doing this as a courtesy for the family, we dont charge for doing all of this but alot of funeral homes do, why are families surprised when we tell them we will be taking a death cert out of the ones they ordered? Why would WE pay for one to send in to YOUR ins company in order for US to be paid for services WE provided to YOU?!? If the family were to do all the work themselves and file the death claim and not assign the policy to the funeral home, they would still be required to send in a cert death certificate!
And on to waiting for the money from the ins co. If we are taking an assignment, then we know we will be waiting on payment. If the beneficiary is to receive any funds from the policy, those funds will be sent directly to them, not us.. we explain this to the family. Now, each ins co is different in how long it takes for us to receive payment. It could be a week, three weeks, four weeks, sometimes longer.. WE know this. We are willing to wait because we know that we will get paid…anything that is due to the beneficiary is typically sent out at the same time. Now, I cannot yell you just how many times we get phone calls from families asking if we have been paid yet, which if it has been a while, I can understand.. and usually when we tell them that we have not received payment yet but that is not unusual, they are satisfied with that answer. But, there are those times when they call and when we tell them, no, we have not been paid yet, but again, its not unusual, they begin to get upset. Not upset because they are worried or concerned about us getting paid but upset because THEY are also due payment from ins co. Again, we understand you want your money, but there is nothing we can do about it. It is the claims process. We can call and get a status update but so can the beneficiary! They should be more concerned about US getting paid!
So with that being said…If a family wants us to take an assignment and the death certificate is Pending, well, sometimes we will, sometimes we wont. It is up to the boss.. But here’s the thing, if the death certificate is Pending we can still send in all the required documents except the death certificate. The life ins will typically only accept a death certificate with a cause of death. So we will let the life ins co know the death cert is Pending and they will tell us that the claim will not be paid out until they receive an amended death certificate. So once we do receive that amended death cert we forward it to the life ins co. What have I said in the past about Pending death certificates? They can take up to 9 months to be amended, that is why we may not accept an assignment if the death cert is Pending. But on those rare instances where we do accept an assignment, we know we will be waiting. And…we explain this to the family!! So you can imagine when a family is waiting on a death cert to be amended plus waiting for ins money.. It is not fun to have to deal with, especially when they refuse to understand and or listen to how it works. My reason for posting about this is because we are currently dealing with one of these instances now. The woman passed away in January. There was an error on the death cert., no fault of the funeral homes tho, thank goodness! But once the application for correction to amend (to enter cause of death) was forwarded to the state by the Medical Exaniner, the State found an error the Medical Examiner had made. It was a small error, something to do with the intervals of what led to the death of the deceased. So, the State sent it back to Medical Examiner to be corrected. Well, the Medical Examiner took their sweet old time in correcting their error..which has held up the death certificate. I am happy to say that as of this past Monday, the State finally received the correction, but.. Now it is up to the state to make the correction to said death certificate and then send it to the appropriate clerks office. Once the clerk has it, we can go get it. So even tho the State has it, it could still be another 4 weeks or more until we are able to get it! I agree that this whole situation sucks! The Medical Examiner took way too long to make their correction and as usual the State always takes too long! Now, even tho we have explained this time and time again to the family, they continue to call and come in and argue with us about this. And…each and every time we tell them the same thing! Just because you come in or call and yell or say we aren’t doing our jobs because you need that money, it is NOT going to speed anything up. Why? Because it has absolutely nothing to do with the funeral home! We didn’t cause the death cert to be Pending. We didn’t cause the error. We did not in anyway assist in the delay of making any corrections and…we are not the State Vital Records Division nor are we employed by them! And just because the family knows the cause of death because they received the Autopsy results, it means nothing. It only means that the Medical Examiner has completed all autopsy tests and have received all the tests back. It does not mean the death cert has been amended! It is a process…a long one, especially if you live in a large County.. Which I do. We nor anyone else can just take the death cert and white out something or cross something off and write in what we want.
After working with so many people/families over the years, you get to know how people are usually the moment you take the first call..or from the moment the family walks thru the door for arrangements. Once in a great while you get a surprise and the family you thought that was going to be a pain turns out to be very nice however, you also get the ones you think are nice and normal and they turn out to be complete whack jobs…!! So with that being said, if the death cert comes to us with a Pending listed as cause of death and we have ‘one of those’ families, we cringe. I know that no matter how much I try to explain to them what it means and how long its going to take to get the amended one, thet just aren’t going to understand, listen, or comprehend any of it and sooner or later, usually sooner, we will start getting the phone calls and the yelling about us not getting them a death cert with cause of death.. And its usually because there is a life ins policy or some other financial matter they need it for. I am in no way saying that they really dont need the money from the life ins., but I guess what I mean is, there are some instances where the person or persons who are due this money had no responsibility for paying any of the funeral charges or cemetery charges, they were simply listed as a beneficiary or one of the beneficiaries on the policy. And to be honest, those are the ones who are relentless on accusing us of not getting them an amended death cert.
Then there are those families where noone gets along and everyone from the next of kin to the best friend feels they are entitled to a death certificate. When we explain that we will only supply a death cert to the informant listed and they need to contact that person or go to the clerk and get one themselves, they become irritated with us..then some will try the sob story on us, ‘oh, I just don’t get along with so and so and I know they won’t give me one, can i please just get a photocopy from you?’ I’ve heard all kinds of sob stories and…NO, you cannot just get a copy. Not a photocopy or a certified copy. Go to the clerk and purchase one yourself! In my state they are public record! I have people tell me they cant afford to pay for one, well if we were to get you one, you would still have to pay for it. If there is some sort of legitimate reason why someone other than the next of kin or informant may need a death cert., maybe they are traveling to another country, then we could provide them with a photocopy. When someone asks us for a death cert for their work as proof of them attending the visitation and or funeral…No, noone should require someone to show a death cert to their employer as proof of attendance. A note from the funeral home should be all you need, that or a copy of the death notice. I alsi get alot of people, usuallt younger people, who ask if they can get a note for workm but they aren’t related to the deceased…well, thats fine, but when we are asked to put down that they are the deceaseds sister, brother, aunt, uncle, cousin, etc…and they are non of those things, well, no, we aren’t going to do that. The only reason someone would want us to lie about that is because their employer probably only excuses them if in fact they are an immediate or close relative. There have been those times when I have lied and just put down what they ask me to put down, but I only do it if I know that the person asking was close to the deceased or their family and there has been a couple of times when I just don’t feel like dealing with
When it comes to families who just do not get along and everyone hates each other and maybe the person who had passed is young, there may be two sets of parents and the mom and dad just do not get along and the step parents do not get along with the ex’s or there are children and step children of the deceased who dont get along, etc.. Whoever initially comes in to make the arrangements for the deceased is listed as the informant. Unless that person gives us permission to release information to someone else. I just had this happen, a young man passed awat, he was in his late 20’s. He was married. His wife and him had three children. His parents were divorced, but the father was remarried. This young man died at home. His wife found him several hours later when she returned home from work. She called his mom.. then of course she contacted the local authorities and they contacted the Medical Examiner who picked him up and preformed an autopsy. The mother of the deceased contacted us to let us know she wanted to use our funeral home. She told us he was at the Medical Examiners office and we set up an appt for arrangements. When we spoke with her on the phone and took the required info from her, we asked her who the next of kin was. She said it was her. Now when you have been doing this work for a while, there are just certain things that you know to ask because someone who is in their late 20’s could possibly be married. So.. we asked, is he married? She said yes. So, we explained that his wife is his legal next of kin. Well, she apparently didn’t like that answer. She said that she is his mother!! Ok…whatever…I am not going to sit on the phone and argue about it. But there could potentially be an issue if the mother comes in to make arrangements and the wife disagrees. Now, if they want cremation, then the wife MUST authorize cremation, no if’s and’s or but’s about it. It doesn’t even matter if the mom is going to pay for the funeral…the wife is the next of kin! Now, there may be some confusion as to what people read or hear.. Yes, anyone can arrange someones funeral. Your neighbor can arrange your funeral. But, only the next of kin can legally have you cremated (im my State). What I mean is, say you live alone, you do not have any family, you are close to your neighbor. The neighbor cam arrange your funeral and burial. In some instances, yes, they “may” be able to cremate you. As long as they know for a fact that you had no living family that you are aware of and then a waiver needs to be signed. If however, there is a distant nephew lets say.. well, that nephew is the next if kin and every effort needs to be made to contact him, by the person arranging the funeral. It is NOT the funeral homes responsibility to search for any relatives of the deceased. It is not our responsibility to search records for anyone! If you come in and tell us you are the only child, or you are the deceaseds spouse, then we as the funeral home have to trust what we are being told. It is up to the family to be honest with us.. we have to take the families word. 

That’s all for now.. I have another post coming soon.. Hope every one is well.. I know that I am glad that the weather has finally warmed up…yay!


2 Responses to “Life at a funeral home-Yes, Death Certificates…Again”

  1. Admin Asst. Says:

    It’s ironic that you posted about death certificates. We had a few issues, with dc’s, recently involving certified copies. One was the son of decedent who wanted 2 copies. However, at the time of service, his sister got all the certifieds. I told him his sister had them and he said she hadn’t given him 2 like he wanted and he wanted us to get them for him. However, we can only get certifieds, from the clerk’s office at the time of service. If the family wants more, they have to get them themselves as the clerk will not issue anymore to the funeral home. The only exception is if there is a correction made, then they will issue replacements.

    The second issue we had was a family didn’t like the cause of death on the certified copies. We have no control over cause of death but the family insisted we didn’t put the right cause of death on the death certificate. It was a medical examiner’s case. We explained that to the family but they insisted we needed to get it fixed and have it changed. We can’t do that. If a family has an issue with the cause of death, they have to contact the doctor or the ME to change it. The family was pretty abusive to us about it. I did talk to the ME after the family finally contacted him and he said they were pretty abusive to him as well.

    And the last issue, was with a guy whose wife died, in another state, who we handled services for. She died in 2012 and he only saw now that the out of state removal service had filed her date of birth wrong on the death record. Ugh. So now we have to do the change through the mail, because it was out of state. She died in a very big city so it is going to take months to get it fixed.

    • Sorry it took so long to reply.. Have had alot of stuff going on…personally. Having to deal with personal issues and show up for work every day sucks!
      So on the dc that the family didn’t like the cause of death, did the M.E. ever change it for them or did they tell them to bite it?
      Ive had that happen a couple of times. Not sure why people think we, the funeral home or Director, are the ones who determine cause of death.. I may know alot of medical terms and what some causes of death mean, but only because of my time working at the funeral home and my limited medical background. I become very uncomfortable when families ask me what the cause of death was, when the cause was a drug overdose. Typically the family already suspects it, but I still hate telling them if they ask. They usually only ask if when we call them to let them know we have the dc’s. Usually any OD is a M.E. case so the original dc is Pending and when we receive the amended, we call the family.
      And… why is it so hard for people to accept what we do tell them…like when you explained that the funeral home cannot make the change nor did you determine the cause? You explained it, that they have to contact the M.E. so what was the point in them becoming abusive?!? That kind of mentality just irks the crap outta me!
      We always tell people to please read over the dc asap so if there are any errors we can get it corrected asap, but just as that gentleman did, he didn’t notice and now its going to take forever!!! Especially like you said, its in a big city. Hopefully he wont bug you too much about them. I know how it is being in a big city and things taking twice as long. It blows!
      Hope you are well!!

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