Sacramento County Public Law Library

Q. Hi Law Librarian,

My friend’s sister died suddenly at age 58. She did not have a will and did not have her last wishes known. My friend had to quickly make funeral arrangements in Southern California. She really felt pressured by the mortuary to purchase expensive services. What are the laws for consumers and funeral homes?


A. Hi Lynnie,

Families purchasing funeral and cemetery services are incredibly vulnerable and have been the subject to egregious conduct. The Federal Trade Commission created a “Funeral Rule” in 1984 to address the deception and consumer abuse across the funeral industry.

Planning in advance for the death of a loved one can relieve you of that responsibility at the time of death, when you may be emotionally vulnerable. Take time now to discuss these matters and find out what your loved ones want. Be sure to put any wishes or requests in writing. This is also a good time to discuss organ donation and donation to medical science.

The Funeral Consumers Alliance of Northern California (FCANC)  is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing information and education to the public concerning death and dying so families make wiser decisions about end-of-life care and body disposition. In their current newsletter they have a Last Wishes Planning Form  which is a good start.

The California Department of Consumer Affairs’ Cemetery and Funeral Bureau has information on their website to assist you in making the difficult decisions about funeral and cemetery arrangements for yourself or someone close to you. By asking the right questions, comparing prices and services, and making informed decisions, you can make arrangements that are meaningful to your family and control the costs for you and your survivors. They are also the State agency that you can lodge a complaint about a funeral establishment, crematory, or State-regulated cemetery.

Do you have a question for the County Law Librarian? Just email If your question is selected your answer will appear in next Thursday’s column. Even if your question isn’t selected, though, I will still respond within two weeks.

Coral Henning, Director
@coralh & @saclawlibrarian