California’s Funeral Bureau

The Board licenses funeral directors, funeral establishments and crematoriums; registers intern embalmers; and investigates consumer/provider complaints. The Board also maintains updated statutes and rules governing the practice of funeral service.

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The funeral industry is regulated by state laws. The bureau licenses different funeral establishments and individuals in the field, investigates consumer complaints, and takes disciplinary action when necessary. It also regulates cemeteries and funeral directors by making sure they meet minimum standards of handling, arranging and disposing of the deceased.

Funeral directors must complete training and pass a national examination. Embalmers must pass a national exam and meet certain educational requirements. The board also requires that mortuary science programs provide supervised internships to students.

Consumers should always check the license of a funeral director or embalmer before hiring them to work with a loved one who has passed away. It is possible for a license to be denied by the board for criminal convictions, financial issues and misrepresentations on the application. Applicants who believe the denial of their license was unfair can challenge the decision by filing an appeal with the Board. The Board may hold a Statement of Issues hearing to review the complaint and determine whether or not the license should be reinstated.


As the number of funeral providers continues to grow, miscommunications and errors can occur. It is important that consumers know what steps to take should they encounter a problem when planning for a funeral. In California, the state’s funeral bureau licenses embalmers, cemetery brokers and salespeople, as well as nearly two hundred private cemeteries, and investigates complaints against these establishments.

Investigations can be commenced by either a public complaint or an Administrative Inquiry. The investigation process involves taking statements from the complainant, the embalmer or funeral director and/or any potential witnesses.

Complaint investigations are shared between DPH Practitioner Licensing & Investigations Section and Department of Consumer Protection (DCP). When complaints regarding business practices, such as preneed funeral service contract issues, involve licensed professionals, DCP may impose sanctions including cease and desist orders, civil fines, probation or a suspension of the professional’s license. Disciplinary actions taken by a funeral board are often made public depending on the state’s freedom-of-information or “sunshine” laws.

Home funerals

As the funeral industry consolidates, some consumers have decided that a home funeral is what best suits their family’s needs. Many of these families choose to work with a home-funeral guide or death midwife to help them carry out their loved one’s wishes in a more personal way.

The Rule requires that you tell people who call or write for information about your goods and services what your prices are. You must give them your General Price List (GPL), unless state or local law dictates otherwise.

You do not have to provide a GPL for pre-need arrangements if it is your practice not to make telephone calls after hours or not to send information by mail. However, if you do not respond to a call or letter, you must inform the person who made the inquiry that you will do so at their next opportunity. This is true regardless of whether you are licensed. The Bureau conducts undercover inspections to ensure that you are providing this information.


The California Cemetery and Funeral Bureau licenses, examines, and investigates complaints against 13 distinct permitting classifications in the funeral industry. These include memorial service foundations, funeral establishments, funeral directors, embalmers, apprentice embalmers, cemetery brokers and salespersons, incinerated remains disposers, crematories, and the almost 200 authorized private cemeteries in the State of California.

If you have a complaint against a funeral or cemetery, you may contact the bureau to request a Statement of Issues and an administrative hearing. You have the right to be represented by counsel at the hearing, and you may subpoena witnesses.

A cemetery or funeral should always be licensed by the state in which it operates. The state’s funeral laws include provisions requiring the provider to provide a general price list and refrigeration when removing a body from a hospital or nursing home. The state also manages indigent burials and pauper burials for those with no insurance. The state does not license cemeteries operated by religious organizations; cities, counties, or cemetery districts; the military; or Native American tribal organizations.

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