A Consumer Guide to End-Of-Life Issues and Funerals


What arrangements can be made prior to death?

Some options include recording your funeral wishes, advising family members, and prearranging with your funeral director. Keeping important documents such as veteran discharge papers and insurance policies accessible can make final arrangements much easier for your loved ones.

What is the course of action at the time of death?

A spouse, next-of-kin, or a legal representative can usually make arrangements for final disposition. The normal sequence of events for handling a death is as follows:

  •  Death must be pronounced by a coroner, medical examiner, or attending  physician.
  •  Relatives are notified.
  •  The deceased’s funeral instructions, prepaid funeral contract, insurance policy and/or will are located.
  •  The funeral director is contacted.

What happens when death occurs out of state or country?

When a death occurs out of state or country, your local funeral director will know the requirements and arrangements that must be made, and may help prevent duplication of service costs.

Who must be notified when death occurs outside of a medical facility?

The coroner or medical examiner in the county where the death occurred must be notified immediately. He/she will conduct an inquiry into the cause and manner of death prior to the final disposition of the remains.

What are my options for final disposition?

Human remains can be buried, entombed, cremated, buried at sea, or donated for scientific study.

What is the purpose of embalming?

Embalming is the use of chemicals, internally and externally, to disinfect and temporarily preserve human remains. Though not required by South Carolina law, some funeral homes may have a public policy requiring embalming for remains held over 24 hours and/or for those people desiring open casket funerals or visitations.

How do I make arrangements for human remains donation to a medical school?

Arrangements for donation of human remains to a state medical school must be made directly to the medical facility by you prior to death. Listed below are two state medical schools that accept human remains in South Carolina:

   Department of Developmental Biology and Anatomy
   U.S.C. School of Medicine,
   University of South Carolina
   Columbia, SC 29208
   Medical University of South Carolina
   Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy
   Basic Science Building – Room 601
   173 Ashley Avenue
   Charleston, SC 29425

There may be a cost for transportation to the medical school; or a memorial service, if one is chosen. Also, the state medical school may be unable to accept a body upon death due to circumstances surrounding the death or limited space at the state medical school.

Can I donate my organs without donating my entire body?

Yes. Body organs may be donated with proper documentation and/or instructions made known to relatives or responsible persons.

Can I change my mind about donating my body or my organs?

At any time prior to death, a person can revoke his or her donation by alternate instructions to relatives or responsible persons or by destruction or cancellation of documents and all executed copies thereof.

Can human remains be cremated immediately following death?

South Carolina law prohibits cremating any human remains within 24 hours after death. Written permission from the next-of-kin, a coroner’s permit, burial-removal-transit permit, and a properly signed certificate of death must all be obtained prior to the cremation.

How are cremated remains properly disposed of?

Cremated remains may be disposed of in a number of ways: scattered on private property, scattered at sea, interred in a cemetery, placed in a niche in a columbarium, or kept by the family in their home.

Can a person be buried on private property?

There is no law in South Carolina prohibiting burial on private property. However, there may be certain health regulations or zoning ordinances that should be considered.


Selecting a Funeral Home


How do I select a funeral director?

Most funeral directors are selected by reputation and availability. A friend’s recommendation usually is a good choice. If you are unsure, however, visit the funeral home, examine the facilities, ask about prices and inquire about the ways in which your needs will be served.

What information will I need to make funeral arrangements?

    1. Full Name of Deceased
    2. Race
    3. Occupation and Type of Business or Industry
    4. Current Legal Address
    5. Date of Birth
    6. Place of Birth
    7. Social Security Number
    8. Marital Status. If married, spouse’s name (maiden name)
    9. Highest Level of Education
  10. National Origin
  11. Father’s Name and Mother’s Maiden Name
  12. Place of Burial or Disposition
  13. DD214 Form – Veteran Discharge Papers (if a veteran)
  14. Name and Address of Informant.

Obtaining Funeral Service Pricing

Any consumer who inquires about an establishment’s services is entitled by law to the firm’s General Price List. This printed list, available to the customer to keep, itemizes the retail prices of a funeral. It must specify the charges for the following items, provided they are available for purchase through the establishment:

     1. Basic Services of Funeral Director and Staff
    2. Embalming
    3. Other Preparation of the Remains
    4. Services and Facilities for Viewing
    5. Services and Facilities for Funeral Ceremony
    6. Services and Facilities for Memorial Service
    7. Services and Equipment for Graveside Service
    8. Transfer of Remains to Funeral Home
    9. Hearse
  10. Limousine
  11. Casket Price Range
  12. Outer Burial Container Price Range
  13. Forwarding of Remains to Another Funeral Home
  14. Receiving Remains from Another Funeral Home
  15. Direct Cremation
  16. Immediate Burial
The General Price List must also include the name, address and phone number of the establishment, the effective date of the price list and a notice concerning your rights on pricing.

Please note that there may be charges for items such as cemetery fees, flowers and newspaper notices. After completing all arrangements, you must be given an itemized Statement of Funeral Goods and Services.

What are my options in choosing a casket?

Caskets are constructed from various materials including steel, copper, bronze and various types of woods. The only warranties provided are those extended by the manufacturer. The funeral establishment must have a card or brochure in each casket stating the price of the casket. Although caskets are not required by law, cemetery or mausoleum requirements may mandate them. There is no direct relationship between the protective features of the casket and the preservation of the human remains.

Is there a South Carolina law that prohibits funeral directors from solicitation at or near the time of death?

Yes. Solicitation means any direct or indirect contact with the family, next-of-kin, or one who has custody of a person who is deceased or near death for the purpose of securing the right to provide funeral services or merchandise for the deceased or the person near death.


Prepaid Funeral Contracts


Should I consider a Prepaid Funeral Contract?

Prepaid Funeral Contracts allow a person to consider his/her funeral needs and wishes and control the cost and nature of funeral services desired. These contracts are governed by Section 32-7-10 to Section 32-7-130, as amended, of the South Carolina Code of Laws and are under the jurisdiction of the South Carolina State Board of Financial Institutions. They vary in terms and coverage and should be reviewed carefully before execution.

South Carolina law requires that any seller of prepaid funeral contracts be licensed by the South Carolina State Board of Financial Institutions. Be certain that your seller has a license and that the proposed contract form has been approved by the same board.

Where are preneed funds held?

Preneed funds are held in either a financial institution’s trust account identifying the purchaser and must be federally insured [Code Section 32-7-20 (H)]; or a preneed life insurance policy approved by the S.C. Board of Funeral Service and the S.C. Department of Insurance [Code Section 38-55-330].

Is there more than one type of Prepaid Funeral Contract?

Yes.  There are two types of prepaid contracts: Guaranteed and Non-Guaranteed Prepaid Contracts.  Each contract can either be revocable or irrevocable.

A revocable contract is one that may be cancelled in writing at any time. An irrevocable contract cannot be cancelled after thirty days of the contract date.  A funeral home is not required to offer each type of prepaid contract.

What is a Guaranteed Prepaid Funeral Contract?

In a guaranteed contract the funeral provider agrees to furnish the services, merchandise and facilities, regardless of future price changes.  There may be additional charges for items that are not part of the prepaid contract. These may include cemetery fees, casket lowering equipment, opening and closing the grave, certificates of death, beautician, and obituary notices.

What is a Non-Guaranteed Prepaid Funeral Contract?

In a non-guaranteed contract the principal and interest will be credited against the cost of services and merchandise at the time of death.  Any shortfall in funds must be paid by the estate or next of kin of the beneficiary.

Is the interest earned on prepaid accounts taxable?

The interest earned from a trusted prepaid account remains with the account. According to the IRS, the purchaser of any prepaid contract is responsible for taxes on interest earned since the money is not paid to the funeral home until the time of death.

What if I change my mind or want my money back?

By written request, you may get your money back in either of the revocable contracts at any time, while irrevocable contracts can only be cancelled within 30 days of the purchase date.

If a preneed contract is funded by a preneed life insurance policy, insurance refunds are determined by the individual insurance contract.

Can I transfer my prepaid funeral contract to another funeral home?

You may transfer any prepaid contract from one funeral establishment to another licensed establishment.

How do I know if a funeral home is licensed to sell preneed funeral contracts?

You will need to contact the following agency to determine if a funeral home is licensed to sell preneed funeral contracts or to file a complaint regarding such contracts:

            S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs
            P.O. Box 5757
            Columbia, SC 29250
You may contact the following agency to determine if a funeral director is licensed to sell a preneed life insurance policy to fund a preneed contract:
            S.C. Department of Insurance
            300 Arbor Lake Drive – Suite 1200
            Columbia, SC 29223

Licensing & Regulatory Agencies


If I have a complaint against a funeral director or funeral establishment who should I contact?

If you have a complaint against a funeral director or a funeral establishment about the way you are served, you should first, discuss the problem with the funeral director and/or management of the funeral establishment. If you feel you were not treated fairly, he/she should be given the opportunity to satisfy you. If this is not acceptable, you may provide the facts in writing to:

            S.C. State Board of Funeral Service
            c/o S.C. Dept. of Labor, Licensing & Regulations
            110 Centerview Drive – P. 0. Box 11329
            Columbia, SC 29211
            Website: www.llr.state.sc.us

The S.C. State Board of Funeral Service is the licensing and regulatory agency for all Funeral Directors/Funeral Homes/Crematories/Retail Sales Outlets.  You may also request a complete booklet concerning licensing & regulations governing funeral establishments.

You may also contact:

               Federal Trade Commission
               Southeast Regional Office
               225 Peachtree Street NE – Suite 1500
               Atlanta, GA 30307
Your local Better Business Bureau

DISCLAIMER:  This brochure is published as a good faith consumer education service.  It may not be viewed or treated as specific legal advice due to the constantly changing nature of state and federal laws and regulations.  Families should speak directly with their local funeral director or legal representative as to their current planning for end-of-life issues and funerals.

Published by
South Carolina Funeral Directors Association
P.O. Box 1350, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29465    
843.881.3634 | www.scfda.org