How long can remains stay at the funeral home before another can pick them up?

Perkincd asked...

My brother died 6 months ago and his wife has not picked up his remains. When can they be released to another family member such as his mother ? She states she has no money to properly bury the ashes. I have asked her many times why and she states that she just does not have the money. I read that after 120 days it is up to the Funeral homes discretion . We live in New York State.

Expert Answer

Rebekah Peoples, CFSP, CPC, Is a licensed funeral director and embalmer. She is passionate about serving others and believes that giving clients honest, accurate information empowers them to create tributes and services that are meaningful and appropriate.

Please accept my condolences on your brother's death. Brothers have a special relationship with us like no other.

There are a couple of issues in your question. In New York, when the person is making the funeral arrangements, usually the next of kin, they must sign a form called the Designation of Intentions. This form designates what this person is going to do with the cremated body, such as burial or scattering. It also names who the cremated body will be given to if the funeral home is not going to be part of that disposition. Your brother's wife probably listed herself as the person to receive his ashes. As such, she can go to the funeral home and get them to take home. They don't have to be buried right away and she can do that when she does have the money. That's the best option since she signed the form and is the next of kin.

As for the New York law, it does state that the funeral home can bury or scatter them if the cremated remains are still at the funeral home after 120 days. The funeral home however, cannot do this without first contacting the family, giving them the opportunity to pick them up. After that letter is sent out, the funeral home must wait 30 days to give the next of kin a chance to respond. You mentioned it's been six months, which is around 180 days so it is past the legal requirement. There's a chance that the funeral home has already made other arrangements, but they would have had to notify his wife first in accordance with the required 30 day notice mentioned above.

Hopefully, when you give this information to his wife, she will contact the funeral home and arrange to get his cremated remains and bring them home. The burial can be done at a later time when funds are available.