The ABFSE and the Funeral Industry

The ABFSE is the national academic accreditation agency for college and university programs in funeral service and mortuary science. The ABFSE also licenses and investigates complaints against California funeral establishments, funeral directors, embalmers, apprentice embalmers, cemetery brokers and salespersons, and crematories.

Due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, in-person ordering of death certificates is suspended until further notice. You can still order your death certificate online.

Services offered

The funeral industry offers a range of services, such as preparing the body for burial or cremation and providing funeral services. They also offer pre-need arrangements, which allows customers to pay in advance for a casket or other goods and services. Prepaid funeral plans protect families against inflation and help to ease the financial burden on family members after a death.

Some funeral providers arrange for government agencies to provide funeral arrangements for indigent persons or other persons entitled to a public benefit. In these cases, the funeral provider must follow all Rule requirements and make their General Price List available at the time the arrangements are made or discussed.

The GPL must be given to anyone who asks about funeral goods or services, including journalists and representatives of businesses, religious societies, or consumer groups. It must also be provided to anyone who is offered a package price for direct cremation or burial without a funeral service, and to anyone who requests an itemized Statement of Funeral Goods and Services Selected (Statement). Some funeral firms present their outer burial container selections through a book that contains photographs of the containers they offer for sale.


Some funeral providers make arrangements with government agencies to provide funerals for indigent persons or those entitled to a government benefit. When making these arrangements, the funeral provider must comply with the Funeral Rule. This includes providing the government agency with price lists at the time of arrangement.

For example, if you have a non-declinable fee for the services of your funeral director and staff, you must list it in your General Price List together with the required disclosures. You also must include in this fee any charges for overhead that are not allocated to other goods or services.

The California Cemetery and Funeral Bureau regulates, investigates and responds to complaints against California funeral establishments, funeral directors, embalmers, apprentice embalmers, cemetery brokers, and cemetery salespersons. They also have a wealth of information on funeral related issues and laws. They can be contacted by phone or through their website. The Federal Trade Commission also has a helpful page on funeral pre-need contracts.


The funeral home, mortuary or crematorium must be located in a licensed area. This is important, as it ensures that the facility is properly regulated by the State Board of Funeral Directing and Embalming.

After completing your formal education, you must complete an internship and pass national and state licensing exams. The national exam is administered by the International Conference of Funeral Service Examinations and covers both the arts and sciences of funeral service. The arts section tests your skills in accounting and management, law, and psychology, while the science section tests your knowledge of anatomy, chemistry, microbiology, and restorative art.

Continuing education is an important part of your license renewal process. Continuing education credits are earned through educational programs that are accredited or approved by the Board. Continuing education programs are offered by schools and colleges, professional associations and foundations, and private firms. Unless exempt, individuals with a funeral director or embalmer license are required to earn five hours of CE credit each year for licensure renewal.


Burial insurance plans are similar to prepaid funeral arrangements, but they provide more flexibility and protection against inflation. The death benefit is paid tax-free directly to the beneficiary, and it can be used at their discretion for funeral expenses or any other debts. Additionally, the money in the policy can be used by any family members regardless of where the funeral home is located.

Pre-need plans can either place funds in an irrevocable trust or life insurance policies that earn interest. The former offers the strongest guarantee, as the IRS and creditors cannot touch the money. The latter is more convenient, as you can make your funeral home the beneficiary and pay a monthly premium.

If you decide to choose a burial insurance policy, be sure to look into the contestability clause. It allows the insurance company to investigate your health history and may delay your coverage by up to 12 months if you are diagnosed with terminal illness.

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