What happens if Mom dies in a different state from which she made arrangements?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My mom is 81 and seriously ill. She goes to Palm Springs in the winter but has her home in Minnesota. What would happen if she died there but has bought a funeral plot and stone in MN?

Expert Answer

Ed Markin, BS, MBA, PhD, is the director of research for the Alzheimer's Disease Research Foundation and author of more than a dozen books. For the past 15 years, Markin has operated the Funeral Help Program.

Dying in one state with arrangements made in another is getting more and more commonplace. We are a much more mobile society these days. The answer will ultimately depend on your mother's wishes.

First I applaud you for asking this question now, rather than after the fact and particularly after the body has already been claimed by a local funeral home! That can get confusing and expensive.

Typically you will want to contact the funeral home where the arrangements were made (in Minnesota) and inform them of your mother's death. They will then contact one of the national companies that handle these things to arrange paperwork, required services and transfer to the airport for shipping. The family will be responsible for the transportation charges. Dealing with just one funeral home will help hold costs down and require less coordination by the family. Funeral homes do this every day, so let them.

Once the body arrives in Minnesota, the funeral director will arrange transfer to the funeral home and things will proceed as she has planned.

Should your mother desire to have a service in Florida for her fellow 'snowbirds', I'd suggest a memorial service (essentially a funeral without the body present) at a church or community center. This can be held before or after the funeral and burial in Minnesota, and need not be coordinated through a funeral home.

If, on the other hand, she wishes to have a full-out funeral with viewing in Florida, she should get with a funeral home there and make arrangements now.