How Registrars Can Assist the Next-of-Kin Who Choose Home Funerals in Washington
Washingtonians have the legal right to custody and control of their own dead. They may also choose to file the death certificate without the assistance of a funeral director. Registrars may be unfamiliar with paper filings and the next-of-kin handling this paperwork on their own. Knowing how to serve these families, who are exercising their rights under Washington law, is a vital public service.
Legal Authority of the Next-of-Kin In Washington, the legislative authority for the next-of-kin to act as unpaid funeral services practitioners is found in RCW§68.50.270: "Possession of human remains: The person or persons determined underRCW§68.50.160as having authority to order disposition is entitled to possession of the human remains without further intervention by the state or its political subdivisions."
RCW§68.50.160(1) specifies: “A person has the right to control the disposition of his or her own remains without the predeath or post death consent of another person. A valid written document expressing the decedent's wishes regarding the place or method of disposition of his or her remains, signed by the decedent in the presence of a witness, is sufficient legal authorization for the procedures to be accomplished.” Immediate family are by law the default decision makers regarding physical remains.
Ways You Are Empowered to Assist the Next-of-Kin As a member of the staff, you may field inquiries or accept filings from the next-of-kin wishing to file the death certificate without reliance on a funeral director. These suggestions will help them receive the same high level of service provided to those using a professional to file electronically:
Ensure that you and all of your colleagues are familiar with Washington law regarding a family’s right to care for their own dead, including the filing of the death certificate and receipt of the burial/transport permit.
If additional clarification or training is needed to ensure paper filings will be accepted and processed in a timely fashion, please consult the State of Washington Vital Records Department.
Familiarizing yourself with the additional information resources below will further equip you to serve families who choose to care for their dead.
Additional Information National Home Funeral Alliance (NHFA) www.homefuneralalliance.org Funeral Consumers Alliance (NHFA) www.funerals.org
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Washington Funeral Resources and Education is a non-commercial public interest site dedicated to helping Washington consumers care for their own dead with or without the assistance of a funeral director. See FuneralPartnership.org for more state funeral information. This site is maintained as a project of White Eagle Memorial Preserve and Sacred Earth Foundation, which coordinates responses to inquiries with other Washington-based organizations and practitioners that support the mission of the Funeral Partnership.
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