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Funeral Law in Oregon

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It’s not enough to sort out the papers, the wills, the taxes, the trusts, the long-lost relatives; you also need to think about burial and funerals. The law has a long reach.

Where to begin if you want to know about funeral law?

1) The place to begin your research is the Oregon Mortuary and Cemetery Board’s webpage. This Board has many publications at their website under their homepage topic, “Consumer Related.”

2) Other organizations may also be able to advise you. For example, the following have services and information for senior citizens. Your public library will have directories of other local social service or nonprofit organizations and can help you find names and contact information.

a) Elders in Action

b) AARP, Oregon Chapter

3) Your public library may also have books on the subject. For example, a book called “A Will is Not Enough in Oregon” has information on pre-arranged funerals and related topics. Consumer guides will have information also. Ask your reference librarian!

4) You can also talk to your spiritual leader and to various funeral homes. They would likely know what is allowed, which might very well depend on religious or cultural affiliation and/or the particular place of burial you have in mind.

Consider that many of the old homesteads and “century farms” have their own family plots. There are churchyard cemeteries that may have some “grandfathered” exceptions. The spiritual leaders would likely know of any legal exceptions that their particular group qualifies for — e.g. some families prepare their own family members for burial, no embalming.

5) Rules for cremation and spreading ashes are something else to consider. Some funeral businesses know how to handle tribal burials, are sensitive to cultural issues, know about the legal issues, and are willing to work with people in poverty and with tribal spiritual leaders.

6) Hospital chaplains, hospital social workers, home health agencies, and Hospice workers would also be people to ask for referrals to funeral homes that are willing to work with families to save costs. And, if time is not crucial, you might be able to get multiple bids.

7) I suspect there are a number of secret cemeteries around the state (and around the country). I’ve heard third-hand about a secret biker (motorcycle) cemetery in the coast range.

8) Finally, if you find you have very specific legal questions not answered by these brochures or by calling the Oregon Mortuary and Cemetery Board (971-673-1500) directly, you may want to speak to an attorney. If you don’t have one, I recommend you contact the Oregon State Bar (OSB) Information and Referral Service, at 503-684-3763. A guide on how to find a lawyer is also available from here.

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