Ask Your Funeral Director

"Dear Funeral Director......."
     After a few requests, and some serious thought, this page has been created along the same lines as a "Dear Abby" column in the newspaper. It is set up as a forum, so that anyone that may have a question about anything Funeral-related can ask their question, and, if desired, may remain anonymous in doing so. This is just one more way we feel that we may be able to better serve the families of Middle Georgia and the surrounding areas.
     If you have a question, simply click on the link below which says "e-mail your questions here". Clicking on the link will open an e-mail window. Please put "Ask a FD" in the subject line, and type your question in the body of the e-mail. If you would like, you are welcome to sign the e-mail, but if you would like to remain anonymous, you may simply sign with an alias, so that when your question is answered, you can find it quickly within this page.
     As always, we appreciate all feedback that we are given, and we look forward to your questions.
                                   Best Regards,
                                                 Spencer N. Williams

Email Your Questions Here

Williams Funeral Home
513 Rose Avenue
Barnesville, GA 30204
(770) 358-1678
e-mail: staff@williamsfh.net




Question about money that was prepaid on a funeral service

Dear Funeral Director,
    My question may seem a little odd, but my mother made funeral arrangements for herself with a funeral home in south Georgia, and prepaid for those services. The funeral home has changed owners at least twice since then, and now my mother's health is starting to decline. She is moving here to this area from south Georgia where this all took place, so that we can help to see after her. Is she at a complete loss, or is there any way to recover the money that she paid in to that funeral home?
                                                   "Hoping it's not lost" from Milner
P.S. - Thank you for starting this page.

Dear "Hoping it's not lost" from Milner,
     
  There is absolutely nothing to worry about. Your mother is completely protected by Georgia State Law. When people in the State of Georgia prepay for funeral services, the funeral homes are not allowed to spend ANY of the money that is pre-paid. The money is regulated by the Securities Division of the Secretary of State's Office. Every penny of the money is required to be placed in an interest-bearing account for that person, where it must remain until the person passes away. Most often, the  method of placing the money that funeral homes use is either: #1 - A Certificate of Deposit (CD) within a local bank, or #2 - A Pre-Need Funeral Insurance Policy. Each funeral home does things a little bit differently, some will offer only one or the other. We offer both. We know that each family is different, each family requires different things, and should be allowed to make the decision which will be best for them. There are pros and cons with each method of funding, and each family should have the right to choose which method is best for them. For more information on Prefunding funeral arrangements, please feel free to ask us.
    As for your question, no, your mother's money is not lost. The funeral home has to honor your mother's wishes. If you talk to the funeral home that you would like to handle the services in the event of her death, they will be able to provide the paperwork to transfer the pre-arrangements from the old funeral home to the new one. As for the money that your mother prepaid, the Insurance Policy or Certificate of Deposit can be moved from one funeral home to another WITHOUT CASHING IN EITHER ONE OF THEM. Your mother's money can be transferred without cashing in, and without losing any interest, or paying any penalties. If the funeral home you choose does not offer this, or know how to go about it, I will be happy to explain it to them for you.
    Thank you for your question, and for the positive comment.
                                           -Spencer N. Williams



Question

Dear Funeral Director,
     I do want to remain completely anonoymous, but I have a question.I had a brother to pass away last year. I was not with his wife when she made the funeral arrangements, but I have seen a copy of the funeral bill. There were a couple of things that puzzled me. The main one was that she was charged a "Vault Setup Fee" by the funeral home, and a "Vault Handling Fee" by the cemetery.What is the difference in these items, and was she double charged? Can you offer any clarification? Thank you.
                                                        -"Remaining Completely Anonymous"

Dear "Remaining Completely Anonymous",
     Actually I can offer some clarification on the difference between a "Vault Setup Fee" and a "Vault Handling Fee". This came in the form of the Georgia Cemetery and Funeral Services Act of 2000. This law went into effect saying that: A Cemetery could no longer dictate who was allowed to set a Vault or Monument in that Cemetery. That ANY Merchandise Retailer (who meets the Insurance, Registration, and Bonding Requirements set forth by the State of Georgia in Official State Code: SOS  10-14-1) may set a Monument or Vault in any Cemetery. The Cemetery may charge a fee not to exceed $50.00 (which may be termed Vault Handling Fee, Vault Inspection Fee, or a Moument Survey Fee"). The Cemetery can still mandate that no other entity may do the Opening & Closing of the Grave.
     Most Cemeteries or Vault Companies charge a fee for "Vault Service, Setup, & Delivery". This fee generally includes the delivery of the Vault to the Cemetery, setting up the Tents, Chairs, Casket and Vault Lowering Devices, and all of their staff and equipment, Closing the Casket into the Outer Burial Container, and placing everything down into the grave.
     Now, in the event that the "Vault Handling Fee" that the Cemetery charged was over the $50.00 maximum allowed by law, the charge was illegal, and should be reported to the Georgia Secretary of State's Office, Securities Division immediately. The Georgia Secretary of State's Office can be reached through their website: 
www.sos.state.ga.us    or by phone at: (404) 656-3920.
     I hope this offered some clarification for you. If you still have questions, I will be happy to answer them as best I can.
                                              Spencer N. Williams



Question about Pre-Need Salesperson

Dear Funeral Director:
     I am from another state, but my aunt who lives in Georgia recently entered into a pre-need funeral arrangement in which she bought an insurance policy from the funeral home.
     In discussion this with her, she could not tell us if the seller was a licensed funeral director or something called a "family counselor."
     Does such a seller have to be a funeral director in Georgia to make such arrangements?  I know he does in our state.
                                                          Thanks,
                                                                 "Curious"
Dear "Curious",
                Actually, this is something that varies from one state to another. In Georgia, the answer is no, the person does not have to be a Licensed Funeral Director to make PRE-NEED funeral arrangements. However, they DO have to be registered through the Secretary of State's office as a Pre-Need Sales Agent. Furthermore, if someone will be selling Pre-Need Merchandise from an establishment that does not employ a
Licensed Funeral Director, they must have the business establishment 
registered as a Registered Pre-Need Dealer. The "Family Service Counselors" that you have made reference to in your question are typically a title that has been created by some of the large corporations that have been purchasing some of the family owned funeral homes for the last couple of decades. That title of "Family Service Counselor" is not an official title within any legal definition, it would merely be a position that that company "invented".
                Now, if the Funeral Arrangements are At-Need, meaning that the person has already passed away, those arrangements are required to be made by a Licensed Funeral Director, or by a Funeral Service Apprentice, under the direct supervision of a Licensed Funeral Director. 
                Just to make sure that they did inform your mother fully, even Pre-Need Insurance Policies, that may be sold by an individual funeral home, are fully transferable to any funeral home anywhere.
                  I hope this has answered your question. If you still have questions, please feel free to let me know.
                                                           Spencer N. Williams



Home Funerals

Dear Funeral Director,
Are home funerals allowed in Ga?  If Hospice is involved are home funerals allowed?
                                                      Thank you,
                                                               Hamilton, Georgia
Dear Hamilton, GA,
         To answer your questions, .....Yes, Home funerals are allowed in Georgia. Whether or not Hospice is involved would have no bearing on whether or not the home funerals are allowed. Now, there are certain things that do need to be taken into consideration.
          A Funeral Establishment that has been Licensed through the State of Georgia does have to be utilized. There are certain things that are legally the responsibility of the Funeral Director, such as:  The Death Certificate. The Georgia Death Certificate is generated by the Funeral Home. The Funeral Home fills out the biographical and statistical information in the manner in which the State Department of Vital Records requires it. The Georgia Death Certificate does have a requirement of the Funeral Director's Name and License Number, the Embalmer's Name and License Number (if applicable), and the Funeral Establishment's Name, Address, and License Number.
          There are several reasons that a family may want to conduct a Funeral in their home. It may be the wish of the Deceased, it may be more of a "comfortable" place for the family, or it may be the idea that having the funeral at their home may be less expensive. The reality is that most homes are not equipped with a space for a gathering for very many people, or that there may not be an area large enough for a casket, or that doorways or corridors may not be large enough for a casket to fit through. And, of course, most Funeral Homes or Funeral Directors would not charge any differently for the Service to be held in a home, than what they would charge for the service to be held in a church, since that is an instance in which the actual charge is only for the staff and equipment, and not for the facility. Now, in an instance in which the Service was for a Cremation, rather than a casketed burial, once the funeral home releases the cremated remains to the family, that family may do whatever they would like as far as services are concerned.
           I would also like to point out that there are some psychological factors that should be taken into consideration as well. I have often heard of families that may have had a funeral in their home church, and upon trying to go back into that church, could not look at the pulpit area without "seeing" that casket down front. This is one very common reason that a lot of families today will opt for funerals to be conducted in the Funeral Home's Chapel, rather than in the Church. 
           Another common reason for utilizing the Funeral Home's Chapel is one thing that we are very proud of: plenty of flat parking area, plenty of handicapped access parking spaces, and no barriers or obstructions, the entryways are flat, with no steps or stairs. This makes things much easier for the families, the pallbearers, and for anyone who may have mobility challenges or may be handicapped.
           I hope this helps in some way. If you have any further questions, or any clarification to anything that I have answered here, please do not hesitate to call, or e-mail your questions at any time. Thank you for your questions.
                            Warmest Regards,
                                              Spencer N. Williams
                                                  Funeral Director



Question about Funeral Directing

Hello, my name is Paulette and i was just wondering if you could give me some information on becoming a funeral director, i really would like to become one, but im also worried about not being able to have a family and not having time to spend with them, but being a funeral director is also something ive wanted to do since i was really young. If you could please tell me what courses i would need to take in high school, and if i were to become a funeral director would i have time for a family, and things along those lines. Your reply is greatly appreciated. thank you.

Sincerely,
Paulette

Dear Paulette,

Well, The question of becoming a Funeral Director is something that all of us who are have asked ourselves at some point. It is not an “easy road” as I have heard some speculate that it must be. Often the people that I hear inquire about a career in Funeral Service are people who only look at a Funeral Director dressing nicely and driving the nice company vehicle. Those people don’t often think of the fact that being a Funeral Director is a real job, and a very difficult one. They don’t think about that same person at 2:00am going to pick up someone that has just passed away, and not knowing when they might be able to catch up on the hours of missed sleep.

There are major differences in Funeral Service depending on the size of an area that you may be in. For instance, in a small town like ours where the number of funerals is smaller, I am the only Funeral Director. This means that I am on-call practically 24 hours a day / 7 days a week. When you get into the big cities and metropolitan areas where the number of funerals is much larger, you will find Funeral Homes that have to maintain a twenty person full time staff, with six of them as Licensed Funeral Directors. In the small towns, it can be difficult to have a family and have a lot of time to spend with them. It doesn’t matter what time it is,…if the phone rings, I have to go. Now in the bigger cities with the large staff, you can generally choose to be just a Funeral Director or just an Embalmer instead of having to be both. You can also find workable schedules to have you working five days a week and usually being on-call two or three nights a week.

To be a Funeral Director, you would need to complete a minimum of an Associate’s of Science in Funeral Service in an “accredited” college, complete the Apprenticeship requirements for the State in which you live, as well as passing both a National Board Exam, and a State Board Exam for the State in which you plan to practice.

Notice that I stated that you needed to obtain your degree from an “accredited” college. There are colleges and online universities that offer courses in Funeral Directing and Funeral Assistant, but for your education to count towards your career, the college needs to be accredited by the “International Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards”.

The Basic Degree that you can earn is the Associates of Science in Funeral Service. Most of the colleges offer this degree in a year and a half course of study. Don’t be fooled by the timeline. They most often pack in five or six classes into one quarter, and towards the end, they’ll usually add a lab class in as well. When you start taking Embalming, Microbiology, Anatomy, Pathology, and Funeral Service Management into one quarter, you will understand what I mean.

As far as taking any classes in High School to help prepare, you should try to take all of the extra Science related classes that you can.

I hope I haven’t scared you away. Funeral Service is a difficult field to be in at times. It can be physically strenuous, as well as emotionally draining. But when you think of it, aren’t most worthwhile endeavors somewhat difficult? I see my career as a ministry or a calling. And if I have helped one family, I feel gratitude worth more than any paycheck. If you still have questions, or need any further advice or help, just let me know. I will be happy to offer as much guidance as I can.

Spencer N. Williams

Williams Funeral Home



 

Mr. Williams,
     I too am a 27 yr Lic. FD and Emb in the state Calif. We recently (last week) had a death in my immediate family in So. GA. What a horrible experience with the FD. My mother loss her step mother, who was listed on her birth certificate. with no other relatives ,she is the next of kin with right of disposition. My granny had pre arrangements with a funeral home with funds placed in a bank to be POD. Upon my mother's arrival in town to arrange for services, she was not notified not once by the funeral home, who chose to  get directions and instructions from a friend of my Granny's. My mother was never privileged to any of the documents relating to the pre need, or acknowledged by the funeral home.,after repeatedly asking for this information. The funeral home's attitude was Granny brought this lady in with her when she made these arrangements, and they would only be dealing with this friend. There is no legal document giving power of attorney or a directive signed authorizing this friend. My question is does GA law require  the FD to get permission from the next of kin to go forth with the arrangements (removal,embalming upgrading) ? Would the funeral  home be in violation returning the excess funds from the account to anyone other than the next of kin. My mother was asked for the vital information for the death certificate the day before the funeral of which she refused, because she was never consulted prior to her arrival for the funeral regarding anything else. I am also trying to verify if the person from the funeral director is Lic.  Please respond I'm trying to contact the board before their meeting on Tues the 8th   We were not permitted to participate, therefore my Granny paid for a professional service for which we did not receive
                                                    Mr. Felder

Mr. Felder,

First and foremost, I would like to offer you my sincere apologies for the “bad” experience that you had with any funeral home in the State of Georgia. Unfortunately, there are “bad apples” in just about any bunch. I personally take offense to any Funeral Director (or person who claims to be) whom is not performing the duties of his chosen profession in a correct manner. Being a Funeral Director yourself, you well know that these individuals hurt us all, and our profession as a whole. There is no excuse for mistreatment of such a sacred trust. I will try to answer each of your questions as accurately as possible with the information that I have been given.

First off, Yes, Georgia Law does require that the Funeral Director get permission from the Legal Next of Kin to go forth with the arrangements. The first thing for your mother to make sure of is the fact that there are no other family members out there who could claim Legal Next of Kin. Now, as far as the returning of excess funds from the account, that would have been completely up to the individual who set up the Pre-Need account. Your Granny could have specified that any excess funds be paid to the friend, to the Next of Kin, or even to her favorite charity. With the funds belonging to her in the first place, she did have the right to make those stipulations. Of course, your Granny may have told the Funeral Director that her friend would be in charge of all arrangements. However, a responsible Funeral Director would have verified everything from start to finish with the Legal Next of Kin as well. As far as the verification of a Funeral Director or Embalmer’s License, that is the easiest part. It can be done at any time through the Georgia Secretary of State’s website. Go to www.sos.state.ga.us and Click on the tab in the row across the top of the page that reads “Professional Licensure”. Once the page loads, scroll down to and click on the tab on the right side of the page that reads “License verification”. On the page that opens, choose Funeral Service from the drop down menu, and either insert the individual’s names into the corresponding fields, or choose a county in which the person would be practicing and then click “Search“. This will bring up license verification for you. If you need any assistance with the verification, please feel free to let me know and I will be happy to assist you. If you find that this person is not Licensed, it is State Law that they be immediately reported to the Secretary of State’s Office. Misrepresentation of a Professional License is a Felony. There is a form within the Secretary of State’s website to submit a complaint online if the need arises.

I hope that some of this information will be helpful to you. If you have any further questions, or if there is anything that I may do to be of service to you, please do not hesitate to give me a call at (770) 358-1678, or e-mail me directly at swilliams@williamsfh.net .

Sincerely,

Spencer N. Williams

Williams Funeral Home



Dear Funeral Director,

     I have a aunt who paid her funeral home, but unfortunately my aunt is not able to recall which funeral because of her declined cognitive abilities.  Is there any way to find out what funeral home she paid?  Thank you. 

                                                               -Question

 Dear Question,

        Unfortunately, there really isn't a database anywhere to be able to just make a phone call and get the answer that you are seeking. However, I can give you some ideas of some places to start.
        First of all, you may want to see if you can find any paperwork from a funeral home anywhere within her personal belongings. If she has a dresser drawer or a filing cabinet where important paperwork is typically kept, that is usually a good place to start.
        Next option would be considering if there may be one particular funeral home that has handled services for most of her other family members who are already deceased. If there is one particular funeral home that has normally been utilized, they can check their pre-need files to see if they have anything for you.
        Another option would be checking your aunts bank records to see if she wrote a check. If you have a general time frame in which you know the money was paid, that would make things much easier.
        I don't know how big of an area your aunt lives in, but if there are only two or three funeral homes in the area, simply calling each one and asking if they can look up her pre-need for you can tell you fairly quickly if they have a file on her or not.
        Hopefully between these different options, you will be able to find something to help you. I certainly hope that everything goes well and that your search is resolved easily. If for some reason your search doesn't turn up anything, please let me know and we can back up and see what other avenues may be open for you. I wish you the best of luck and thank you for your question. If you need further assistance, please do not hesitate to call me at (770) 358-1678 or e-mail me at swilliams@williamsfh.net
                                  
                                            Warmest Regards,
                                                          Spencer N. Williams



Wrong Info on Death Certificate

On my fiance D.C. the F.D. (in Georgia) put the WRONG INFORMATION on it such as where he lived ,the state he lived in and his place of employment (his body was taken back to his home state of Georgia) Even though i know his estranged wife had to tell the F.D. this information. Can I contact the state vital office in Atlanta to get this information corrected (I do have his state issued license and W-2's and paycheck stubs to prove that he and I lived together and he worked in another state). Also, his mother and boss can verify and get it notarized for the state of Georgia as well!! Shouldn't the F.D. have gone by his state issued license anyway???

Thank You,                                                                                                     Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

Actually, there are a couple of things here that should be looked at. First of all, if he died in another state, and was brought back to Georgia for burial, then his Death Certificate would not have been issued as a Georgia Death Certificate. The Death Certificate should always be filed in the County and State of Death. Now, as far as the information being correct, typically, as a Funeral Director, the only information that we have to go by, is the information that is given to us by the person or persons who are making the funeral arrangements. In most cases, we don’t have any other means of collecting or verifying this information.

Actually, there are a couple of things here that should be looked at. First of all, if he died in another state, and was brought back to Georgia for burial, then his Death Certificate would not have been issued as a Georgia Death Certificate. The Death Certificate should always be filed in the County and State of Death. Now, as far as the information being correct, typically, as a Funeral Director, the only information that we have to go by, is the information that is given to us by the person or persons who are making the funeral arrangements. In most cases, we don’t have any other means of collecting or verifying this information.

Now, if the information on the Death Certificate is incorrect, the Funeral Director is the one who is supposed to submit any corrections to the State Vital Records Office in the State in which the Death Certificate is filed. That being said, the Funeral Director cannot get anything changed without documented proof of the correct information (such as Birth Certificate, Drivers License, Social Security Card, etc.).

Now, if the information on the Death Certificate is incorrect, the Funeral Director is the one who is supposed to submit any corrections to the State Vital Records Office in the State in which the Death Certificate is filed. That being said, the Funeral Director cannot get anything changed without documented proof of the correct information (such as Birth Certificate, Drivers License, Social Security Card, etc.).

Your course of action, in this case, should be to gather as much of that documented proof as possible, along with all of the information that is incorrect on the Death Certificate, and turn over a copy of everything to the Funeral Director that handled the Services. The Funeral Director should then agree to handle submitting the corrections to the State. Now, I have had to amend or correct two Death Certificates in my career (none of us are perfect), and the one thing I can tell you is that this will not be an overnight process. In both of the situations that I have dealt with, the State of Georgia actually took more than a year to correct the Death Certificates. Unfortunately, that was a situation that I had no control over. So, please be patient if the Funeral Director is complying, or at least attempting to comply with your request. If the Funeral Director refuses to help with getting the DC corrected, then he should be reported to the State Board of Funeral Services in the State in which he practices.

I hope this has answered your questions. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to call, e-mail, or stop by to see us..

Warmest Regards,

Spencer N. Williams



Death Certificates

We found some minor errors on our Death Certificates. The Informant's name and mother's maiden name are misspelled. The place of birth and last address are also incorrect. We contacted funeral home, and are turning the original Death Certificates back in. They said they can change all with documentation except last address, which was the informant's address, not the deceased's address. Is this true?  
thanks J.S. in Hampton Georgia

To J.S. in Hampton,                                                                                                       That is correct. With the proper proof of information, the Vital Records Office can correct the information. Depending on the length of time that has passed since the Death Certificate was originally filed, the corrections may be made in the local or County Vital Records Office. If it has been several days, or a week or more, then the corrections would probably have to be made at the State Department of Vital Records. Warning: In the State of Georgia, I have had 3 Death Certificates that have had to be corrected during my career. It's great if you can catch them at the County level, but all 3 that had to be corrected, had to go to the State Department of Vital Records. It took them over a year in each instance to make those corrections and issue new Death Certificates. That's a long time to wait, when you consider the fact that it is a State Law that Doctors are supposed to sign and return the Death Certificates to the funeral home within 24 hours, and then funeral homes are supposed to have the Death Certificate filed in the Vital Records Office within 5 days of the death. Double Standard?.....Sounds like it. Another wise word of warning, the government is obviously grasping at straws to make up for budget shortfalls this year. Just in the first 7 months of 2010, the State of Georgia increased the price of the first Certified Copy of the Death Certificate from $10.00 to $25.00. Do you know of any other business that could get away with a 250% increase in price? ...Not me.                  




Concerned

Dear Funeral Director:
Hi, my mom passed away 2 weeks ago of a sudden death, (she was very healthy) she was 60 years old. She was found at home and transported to the hospital where they pronounced her upon her arrival. The next day, I received a call from the hospital releasing her body and when I asked them what the cause of death they just said "cardiac arrest". I asked them if an autopsy would be done and they said no, but I could do an independent if I wanted to. I didn't have the money to do that. I received a call from her primary doctor who cared for her for 30 years and he said her heart was fine and he was shocked. I didn't hear anything more after that from her doctor. She was in a head on collision 2 weeks earlier and went to the ER. She had Xrays showing alot of bruising around her knees so I thought maybe she had a blood clot. Her body was cremated 5 days later and yesterday I picked up her ashes. I inquired about the death certificate and the funeral home told me that her primary doctor has refused to sign the death certificate and they sent it to the GBI to sign on the death. I asked when that would come back and she said they had to "investigate" and then sign off. I have tried calling my mom's primary doctor, but he is out of town until next week. My question is, should her body have been cremated before anyone signed off on the death certificate. The funeral home said they personally spoke to her doctor and he doesn't believe the manner in which she died, therefore he didn't feel comfortable in signing for her death. I wanted an autopsy to begin with to determine her death, now I'm concerned the funeral home did something wrong. Please help in putting my mind at ease. Thank you so much!
- Concerned

Dear Concerned,

I can understand your concern. I can see three different areas in which you would have concern.

#1 - The Death Certificate. Unfortunately, the Death Certificate problem has become more common in today’s world. More often than ever, as hospitals are using hospitalist doctors more and more, we’re seeing doctors trying to dodge responsibility as far as Death Certificates are concerned, or even in some cases, we‘ve seen where a particular doctor may not be back in that hospital with access to the files needed to complete a Death Certificate for several weeks, and in a rare case, even a month or more.

Unfortunately, the Death Certificate problem has become more common in today’s world. More often than ever, as hospitals are using hospitalist doctors more and more, we’re seeing doctors trying to dodge responsibility as far as Death Certificates are concerned, or even in some cases, we‘ve seen where a particular doctor may not be back in that hospital with access to the files needed to complete a Death Certificate for several weeks, and in a rare case, even a month or more.

#2 - The Real Cause of Death. To address the Cause of Death issue, I would certainly look into this as much as possible. Your mother’s primary care doctor could be a strong ally to have, especially if this doctor has a conscience, as you have described. One thing to look for, is when the Death Certificate comes back, seeing what is termed as the actual cause of death. In the State of Georgia, a Doctor or hospital may not simply use the generic term “Cardiac Arrest” as the only cause of death. Coroners may use that terminology, but not doctors, at least not without giving an underlying cause for that Cardiac Arrest. It is unfortunate that by having chosen cremation, it is very possible that your strongest evidence may no longer exist. This would mean that the strongest evidence you have left is going to come from your mother’s medical records in the hospital, and her records with her primary care doctor who has been treating her for the last 30 years. If the doctor thinks there is reasonable cause, then you may want to seek advice from an attorney.

To address the Cause of Death issue, I would certainly look into this as much as possible. Your mother’s primary care doctor could be a strong ally to have, especially if this doctor has a conscience, as you have described. One thing to look for, is when the Death Certificate comes back, seeing what is termed as the actual cause of death. In the State of Georgia, a Doctor or hospital may not simply use the generic term “Cardiac Arrest” as the only cause of death. Coroners may use that terminology, but not doctors, at least not without giving an underlying cause for that Cardiac Arrest. It is unfortunate that by having chosen cremation, it is very possible that your strongest evidence may no longer exist. This would mean that the strongest evidence you have left is going to come from your mother’s medical records in the hospital, and her records with her primary care doctor who has been treating her for the last 30 years. If the doctor thinks there is reasonable cause, then you may want to seek advice from an attorney.

#3 - Did the funeral home do something wrong? According to what you have explained in your e-mail, no, the funeral home didn’t do anything wrong. This problem is rare, but not unheard of. In the State of Georgia, you do not have to wait for a Death Certificate to be signed or filed before a Cremation can take place. Yes, some states do require the Death Certificate to be signed and filed before the Cremation can be performed, but it isn’t a requirement of all states. When a Funeral Home is notified of a Death, most Funeral Directors will ask for the information for the Doctor who will be completing the Death Certificate. It is up to that Doctor to fill out the appropriate cause of death. If her primary care doctor wasn’t willing to fill out and sign the Death Certificate, my next step would have been going to the doctor that pronounced death. If the pronouncing doctor were a hospitalist, or a hospital physician, it may have been necessary to deal directly with the Medical Records Clerk at the Hospital to have the Death Certificate completed and signed. With the information that you have given me in your e-mail, I’m not sure how the GBI got brought into the picture, but their investigation should hopefully turn up whether anything went wrong at the hospital.

I hope that this information has helped you in some way, and if you have any further or specific questions that I may be able to help you with, please do not hesitate to let me know.

Spencer N. Williams
Williams Funeral Home
Barnesville, GA