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Division Director

Doug Shropshire

Assistant Director

Anthony B. Miller


Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services
200 East Gaines Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0361
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CONSUMER TIPS

Choose a category:
Complaints | Cemeteries | Exempt Cemeteries
Funeral Services | Cremation | Pre-need Contracts
Pre-need Sales | Public Disclosures | Licensing

COMPLAINTS:

A) How do I file a complaint?

If you wish to file a complaint, CLICK HERE to download the Complaint form. The completed form should be mailed to: The Division of Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services; 200 E. Gaines Street; Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0361, or fax the form to the Complaint Staff at (850) 413-4958.

CEMETERIES:

A) Are you required to purchase a burial vault?

Florida does not require the purchase of a vault. A cemetery’s bylaws or rules will state if it requires a vault or grave liner for burials. The cemetery company cannot require that the vault or grave liner be purchased from their company.

B) Can a cemetery charge an installation fee for markers or vaults?

Any cemetery whether licensed or exempt may charge an installation fee as long as the cemetery is the installer.

No cemetery may:

1. Charge a fee for the installation of a monument purchased or obtained from and to be installed by a firm other than the cemetery company or its agents.

2. Require any firm that installs, places, or sets a monument to obtain any form of insurance, bond, or surety or make any form of pledge, deposit, or monetary guarantee as a condition for entry on or access to cemetery property.

C) Is the cemetery responsible for the care and maintenance of a grave space if they didn’t sell or install the marker or monument?

1. No person who is authorized to sell grave space and no cemetery company may:

  • Refuse to provide care or maintenance for any portion of a gravesite on which a monument has been placed; or
  • Waive liability with respect to damage caused by cemetery employees or agents to a monument after installation, even if it is not purchased from the cemetery company providing grave space or from or through any other person or corporation designated by the person authorized to sell grave space or the cemetery company providing grave space.
  • No cemetery company may be held liable for the improper installation of a monument where the monument is not installed by the cemetery company or its agents.

D) Can the cemetery restrict what kind of items that family members can place on their loved ones’ grave?

Cemeteries generally try to maintain an environment that will be pleasing to all visitors. Cemeteries may restrict the placement of extra ornamentation on the gravesites if the items interfere with maintenance of the cemetery or pose a danger if caught by the lawn mower or other equipment.

The cemetery bylaws will state what may be placed upon graves and what is acceptable landscaping. Bylaws and rules can change over the years. A cemetery is required to make all rules and bylaws available to anyone upon request.

E) Is the cemetery responsible for damage to markers resulting from vandalism?

Unless specified in a contract, damage to a marker, which is not directly caused by the cemetery or its employees, should be covered by the homeowners insurance of the person owning the gravesite.

Defects in materials that result in damage are the responsibility of the company that sold the marker.

F) How can you get a licensed cemetery to maintain its grounds such as watering or replacing dead sod?

If you have been unable to get a license cemetery management to reasonably maintain the grounds, you may file a complaint with the Division of Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services. An examiner will be assigned to inspect the cemetery and determine if the maintenance is inadequate. If there appears to be negligence or inadequate maintenance by the cemetery, the examiner will discuss the matter with cemetery management and hopefully resolve the situation. If not, administrative action can be taken against any licensed cemetery.

Seasonal watering restrictions may be a factor in the current condition of the grounds.

The State of Florida has no provision for the state to maintain a cemetery in poor condition.

Counties and municipalities have the authority to take such action as necessary and appropriate to provide for maintenance and security of an abandoned cemetery or a cemetery that has not been reasonably maintained for a period of six months.

A county or municipality that has maintained or secured a cemetery may take action against the owner to recover an amount equal to the value of the maintenance or security.

G) Is there a standard size for graves?

For gardens developed prior to October 1, 2005:

  • There are no statutory requirements for the size of graves except a minimum of 12 inches of soil or sod on graves.
  • This is contingent upon the ground conditions, in some instances it may be impossible to meet the requirement and the depth requirements may be waived on a case by case basis. (Tree roots in the grave site, water levels etc.)
  • This does not apply to cremated remains. There is no minimum requirement for the depth of soil or sod covering the burial of cremated remains.
  • The licensed cemetery may require the purchase of a full size lot for the burial of cremated remains.

 

After October 1, 2005:

  • Any gardens developed in a licensed cemetery will make all new graves 42” by 96”.
  • Covering soil at the time of burial shall be no less than 12” over the outside burial container. This does not include the burial of cremated remain or preinstalled vaults.
  • The new gardens are required to be surveyed and marked with survey pins every 200 feet.

 

H) Can I bury my family on my own property?

Florida allows for the establishment of family cemeteries of less than two acres, which do not sell burial spaces or burial rights.

Check local zoning laws and deed restrictions, etc. to determine if it is allowed in the local community.

You may also wish to contact the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for any concerns they may have.

The future sale of the property should also be considered as family cemetery may place a cloud on the title.

There would also have to be adequate ingress and egress allowed for family members to visit the burial spaces.

I) Who should a licensed cemetery contact in the event an occupied cemetery space is opened by accident?

The licensed cemetery should contact the next of kin or the person legally authorized to permit the burial.

J) Can a licensed cemetery disinter without the family’s permission?

A licensed cemetery must obtain written authorization from the next of kin or the person legally authorized prior to disinterment, disentombment or disinurnment.

K) Can a licensed cemetery charge a fee to a licensed monument dealer to place a marker in a cemetery?

No. No person who is authorized to sell a grave space and no licensed cemetery company may required the payment of a setting or service charge, by whatever name known, from third party installers for the placement of a monument.

L) Who regulates pet cemeteries?

Pet cemeteries are unregulated, except by any municipal ordinance.

M) Can pets be buried with humans?

Pets can be buried with their owners, if the animal pre-deceased the owner. Their ashes may be placed in the grave or crypt. The licensed cemetery by-laws will determine if they allow this practice.

N) How much time does a licensed cemetery have to complete a pre-construction mausoleum?

A licensed cemetery company shall start construction of that section of a mausoleum, columbarium, or bank of belowground crypts in which contracts for sales, reservations for sales, or agreements for sales are being made within 4 years after the date of the first such sale or 50 percent of the mausoleum, columbarium, or belowground crypts have been sold and the purchase price has been received, whichever occurs first.

The construction shall be completed within 5 years after the date of the first sale made. However, extensions for completion, not to exceed 1 year, may be granted by the Division for good cause shown.

If the units have not been completely constructed at the time of need or the time specified herein, all moneys paid shall be refunded upon request, plus interest.

O) Is it safe to purchase a pre-construction mausoleum space from a licensed cemetery?

Yes, there are stringent requirements for the sale and completion of pre-construction mausoleum projects.

Before a licensed cemetery company can make a sale for a space in a mausoleum, columbarium or bank of below ground crypts, prior to construction, they must establish a trust fund or submit a performance bond to the Division.

The licensed cemetery company is required to submit a building plan and three estimates to the Division prior approval of the bond. If the licensed cemetery company defaults on building the project, the Division can redeem the bond and have the project completed.

The Division does not regulate the sale of mausoleum spaces in exempt cemeteries.

EXEMPT CEMETERIES:

A) What qualifies as an exempt cemetery?

  • Religious institution cemeteries of less than 5 acres, which provide only single-level ground burial.
  • County and municipal cemeteries.
  • Community and nonprofit association cemeteries, which provide only single-level ground burial and do not sell burial spaces or burial merchandise.
  • Cemeteries owned and operated or dedicated by a religious institution prior to June 23, 1976.
  • Cemeteries beneficially owned and operated since July 1, 1915, by a fraternal organization or its corporate agent.
  • A columbarium consisting of less than one-half acre which is owned by and immediately contiguous to an existing religious institution facility and is subject to local government zoning.
  • Family cemeteries of less than 2 acres, which do not sell burial spaces or burial merchandise.
  • A mausoleum consisting of 2 acres or less which is owned by and immediately contiguous to an existing religious institution facility and is subject to local government zoning.

 

B) Must exempt cemeteries maintain burial records by law?

A record shall be kept of every burial in the cemetery of a cemetery company, showing the date of burial and the name of the person buried, together with lot, plot, and space in which the burial was made.

C) Can a cemetery (religious or otherwise) place certain restrictions on who may be buried in a cemetery? (e.g. based on race or color)

No cemetery company or other legal entity conducting or maintaining any public or private cemetery may deny burial space to any person because of race or color.

A cemetery company or other entity operating any cemetery may designate parts of cemeteries or burial grounds for the specific use of persons whose religious code requires isolation.

Religious institution cemeteries may limit burials to members of the religious institution and their families.

D) What rights do municipal and county owned cemeteries have regarding the removal of unauthorized items on cemetery spaces?

It depends on the contract the cemetery signs with the purchaser and what regulations are in place. If the cemetery transferred ownership rights (as in fee simple title) to the family of the deceased, the cemetery has little right to remove items from the gravesite. However, if only interment rights have been given to the family, the cemetery can regulate the use of the grave plot. The cemetery can develop regulations or bylaws to regulate items placed on the grave spaces.

E) Can municipal and county owned cemeteries charge for grave marker permits?

No. No person who is authorized to sell a grave space and on cemetery company may require the payment of a setting or service charge, by whatever name known, from third party installers for the placement of a monument.

F) Does the State have any regulations regarding indigent burials?

Yes. Department of Health has jurisdiction in these matters.

G) Who is legally responsible for burial of cremated remains?

The act of cremation is considered final disposition. Cremated human remains do not have to be buried. However, disputes have arisen from family members as to the ownership or control over the final remains of a loved one. Such disputes are best resolved with the courts.

H) Are there any provisions in the law for an abandoned cemetery?

A county or municipality which has within its jurisdiction an abandoned cemetery or a cemetery that has not been reasonably maintained for a period in excess of 6 months may, upon notice to the Division, take such action as is necessary and appropriate to provide for maintenance and security of the cemetery. These actions may consist of:

1) Solicitation of private funds and the expenditure of public funds for the purpose of providing continuous security or maintenance for any cemetery.

2) Taking legal action against the owner of the cemetery to recover an amount equal to the value of such maintenance or security.

3) No county or municipality may be subject to civil liabilities or penalties of any type for damages to property at the cemetery.

I) What happens if a complaint is filed against an exempt cemetery?

All cemeteries exempted under this chapter in excess of 5 acres must submit to the following investigation and mediation procedure by the Division in the event of a consumer complaint:

(1) The exempt cemetery shall make every effort to first resolve a consumer complaint;

(2) If the complaint is not resolved, the exempt cemetery shall advise the consumer of the right to seek investigation and mediation by the Division;

(3) If the Division receives a complaint, it shall attempt to resolve it telephonically with the parties involved;

J) Is access to a cemetery required?

Yes. The relatives and descendants of any person buried in a cemetery shall have an easement for ingress and egress for the purpose of visiting the cemetery at reasonable times and in a reasonable manner. The owner of the land may designate the easement. If the cemetery is abandoned or otherwise not being maintained, such relatives and descendants may request the owner to provide for reasonable maintenance of the cemetery, and, if the owner refuses or fails to maintain the cemetery, the relatives and descendants shall have the right to maintain the cemetery.

K) Is there a law that prohibits damage or disturbing a gravesite or markers?

Yes. A person who intentionally destroys, mutilates, defaces, injures, or removes any tomb, monument, gravestone, burial mound, earthen or shell monument containing human skeletal remains or associated burial artifacts, or other structure or thing placed or designed for a memorial of the dead, or any fence, railing, curb, or other thing intended for the protection or ornamentation of any tomb, monument, gravestone, burial mound, earthen or shell monument containing human skeletal remains or associated burial artifacts, or other structure before mentioned, or for any enclosure for the burial of the dead, or willfully destroys, mutilates, removes, cuts, breaks, or injures any tree, shrub, or plant placed or being within any such enclosure, commits a felony of the third degree.

L) Does the State maintain a record of the location of all burials in the state?

No. However, since 1996 all cemeteries in Florida are expected to maintain a record of all burials.

FUNERAL SERVICES:

A) Does a body have to be embalmed?

No, Florida does not require embalming.

A body must be embalmed or refrigerated within 24 hours of death.

B) What are cash advance items?

Cash advance items are services or merchandise a funeral home will obtain from a third party to provide for the purchaser. (Flowers, airline tickets, death certificates, etc.).

A funeral home must disclose if they will collect a fee for providing the cash advance items.

C) Who can provide funeral services?

A funeral director licensed in Florida.

D) Can a Funeral Home provide cremation services?

Yes

E) Who else can supply cremation services?

A Direct Disposal Establishment

F) Can a Direct Disposal Establishment provide funeral services?

No

G) Where can I obtain a copy of a death certificate?

The county office of the Department of Vital Statistics.

H) What is a burial transit permit and what purpose does it serve?

The registrar of the district in which death occurs issues a burial transit permit. The local registrar is not authorized to issue the permit if any questions remain regarding the cause of death. The burial transit permit tells the cemetery that the registrar that has authorized the burial.

I) Who is responsible for signing off on the Burial Transit Permit?

The funeral director who first assumes custody of a dead body or fetus must obtain a burial transit permit prior to the final disposition and within 5 days of death. The application for a burial transit permit must be signed by the funeral director and include the funeral director’s license number.

CREMATION:

A) Do I have to buy an urn for my loved ones’ ashes?

No.

B) Can I spread my loved ones’ ashes in the back yard?

Ashes can be spread on any Florida lands, but not in any Florida fresh water.

Check with the Department of Environmental Protection for additional information.

Check with your landlord or condo association if applicable.

It is possible that spreading ashes on private property could be construed as establishing a cemetery.

C) Can I use my boat to spread ashes at sea?

The United States Coast Guard, issues permits for burial at sea within the three mile limit.

D) Can I charge a fee to spread ashes at sea?

If you are not selling a pre-need service, there is no restriction. Check with the United States Coast Guard for permits.

PRE-NEED CONTRACTS:

A) When purchasing a pre-need contract, how do I know my money will be safe?

All sellers of pre-need funeral and cemetery merchandise and/or services are required to be licensed by the State of Florida.

All pre need contracts must be secured by one of the following:

(1) A trust account

(2) A letter of credit

(3) An individual insurance policy

The contract will state the method of security the company is utilizing.

Trust monies are under the control of an authorized trustee.

The Division of Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services conducts regular examinations of the books, accounts and records of the licensed companies to ensure that all trusting requirements are met.

If a funeral home or cemetery goes out of business the Pre-need Funeral Contract Consumer Protection Trust Fund will honor a claim to ensure fulfillment of the contract at the time of need, if another company is not found to fulfill the contract.

B) Can I cancel my pre-need contract and get a full refund?

A pre-need contract should have a cancellation clause in the contract. A contract is subject to the law at the time the contract was written. Since October 1, 1993 all contracts for burial spaces, burial and funeral merchandise and services are 100% refundable in the first 30 days of the contract if the consumer requests a refund in writing.

Services and cash advances may be canceled at anytime for 100% of the contract price paid .

After the first 30 days, pre-need contracts written since 10/01/1993 allow for a specific item or items of merchandise to be fully refunded only if the licensee cannot or does not deliver the merchandise as required in the contract. A licensee that is willing and capable of delivering the purchased merchandise is not required to make a refund.

A purchaser does reserve the right to sell the merchandise if he or she so desires.

C) Cemetery Contract Cancellation, Old Law:

Call the Division of Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services regarding refunds involving contracts written prior to June 1988.

June 1988 to October 1, 1993, no refund is due unless the consumer can within the first year of execution of the contract show an intentional violation of the provision which relates to the negotiation, sale or performance of the contract.

D) Funeral Establishment Contract Cancellation, Old Law:

For contracts written by funeral establishments and direct disposers for funeral merchandise and services prior to October 1, 1993, the refund requirement varies by the year in which the contract was written.

• 1977 = 100% plus 6% of the contract amount paid.

• 1978 - 1993 =100% of the contract amount paid

E) I purchased burial plots in Florida and have moved out of state; will the cemetery refund my contract or buy back the spaces?

A cemetery is not required to cancel and refund a burial right, after the initial 30-day contract cancellation period.

Check the terms of the contract for any language that would make the refund policy different than required by statute.

Many companies have a nationwide network and may be able to honor the contract in another state.

You have the right to resell the burial space. If the cemetery does not choose to repurchase the burial right you can advertise the space(s) for sale or contract with a licensed broker of burial rights, to find a buyer.

If you hire a broker of burial rights you should carefully read and understand the terms of the brokerage agreement before signing it.

F) If I cancel my contract, is the company responsible for paying interest on my money?

No, any accumulated earnings on a pre-need contract are paid to the licensee.

G) Can I cancel my contract and get a full refund if the funeral home or cemetery I purchased from goes out of business?

In many instances the company may have just changed its name or sold its pre-need contracts to another company. Contact the Division of Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services at (850) 413-3039 to determine if there has been a change in name or ownership.

If the company sold its pre-need contracts to another business your contract would retain the same terms as the when it was written.

If your contract was not assigned to another pre-need company the purchaser can choose a company for at need services and the company can file a claim with the Board of Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services for fulfillment of any funds not trusted up to the amount paid on the original contract.

If there was a problem with proper trusting by the company in question the consumer can file a claim with the Board of Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services for payment from the Preneed Contract Consumer Protection Trust Fund. The Board does not authorize refunds of contracts for payment from the fund but will pay for merchandise and services included for in the contract up to the retail amount of the contract, at the time of need.

H) How do I file a claim against the Pre-need Contract Consumer Protection Trust Fund?

You can receive a claim form by contacting the Division of Funeral, Cemetery & Consumer Services at (850) 413-3039. Or go to our website http://www.myfloridacfo.com/FuneralCemetery/

I) What is an irrevocable contract?

An irrevocable contract is written only for people who are qualified applicants for, or recipients of, supplemental security income, temporary assistance under the WAGES program or Medicaid. Once the contract is signed it cannot be canceled and refunded. It is a means for a person or family to set aside a portion of their assets for future burial and funeral services. The amount of the irrevocable contract will not be counted as an asset when the person applies for aid.

The local Medicaid office can answer additional questions about this subject.

J) Who is responsible if the cemetery or funeral home does not deliver or there are delays due to acts of war, etc.?

Most contracts for funeral and cemetery merchandise have language limiting the liability of the seller for delivery delays caused by acts of war, acts of God or any such cause beyond the control of the cemetery or funeral home.

PRE-NEED SALES:

A) Does a person need a pre-need license to sell pre-need funeral and cemetery merchandise and/or services?

Yes, unless the person is a licensed Funeral Director.

B) Does a company need a pre-need license to sell insurance-backed pre-need contracts?

Yes.

C) Does an individual need a pre-need seller license if they have an insurance license when selling pre-need?

Yes, unless they have a funeral director license.

D) Is there a limit on the dollar amount of a life insurance policy which can be sold in conjunction with a pre-need contract?

Yes. Insurance policies cannot exceed $12,500, per person for pre-need contracts. Annual increases are allowed based on the National CPI. (Consumer Price Index)

E) Can a preneed license holder, sell 2 insurance contracts to the same person in order to exceed the $12,500 limit?

A company is allowed to sell a maximum policy or aggregate policies not to exceed $12,500 per person in conjunction with pre-need funeral merchandise and services.

PUBLIC DISCLOSURES:

A) What public disclosures are required pertaining to cemetery and funeral sales?

A licensee offering to provide burial rights, merchandise, or services to the public shall:

1) Provide by telephone, upon request, accurate information regarding the retail prices of burial merchandise and services offered for sale by the licensee.

2) Fully disclose all regularly offered services and merchandise prior to the selection of burial services or merchandise. The full disclosure required shall identify the prices of all burial rights, services, and merchandise provided by the licensee.

3) Provide a good faith estimate of all fees and costs the customer will incur to use any burial rights, merchandise, or services purchased.

4) Provide an adequate description of the merchandise covered by the contract to include, when applicable, model, manufacturer, and other relevant specifications.

LICENSING:

What professionals and establishments need to be licensed in Florida?

  • Any person acting as a funeral director and/or embalmer, intern or apprentice.
  • Funeral establishments
  • Removal companies
  • Centralized embalming establishments
  • Cinerator facilities
  • Any person acting as a direct disposer.
  • Direct disposal establishments
  • Cemeteries not exempted
  • Any person and company who sells pre-need funeral or cemetery merchandise and/or services, including retail funeral and cemetery merchandise stores (i.e. casket stores).
  • Any individual working for a company as a salesperson selling pre-need funeral or cemetery merchandise and/or services, unless the individual is a licensed funeral director.
  • Exempt cemeteries, in excess of 5 acres
  • Monument establishments
  • Brokers of burial rights, if they receive compensation as a third party for the sale or transfer of three or more burial rights in a 12-month period and are not otherwise a licensed individual.
  • Monument sales agents