The California Funeral Bureau

funeral bureau

The Board licenses funeral establishments and directors; embalmers and apprentice embalmers; cemetery brokers, salespersons and managers; cremated remains disposers and crematories; and approximately 200 fraternal and private cemeteries in California. The Board also administers and enforces the funeral profession’s laws and regulations.

Licensing requirements vary by state for funeral directors and embalmers. Check out additional resources for licensing information by state.

Legal Requirements

The Bureau licenses funeral establishments; funeral directors; embalmers; and cemetery brokers, salespersons and managers; as well as crematoriums, hydrolysis facilities and cremation services. The Bureau’s mission is to promote consumer protection and licensee compliance through proactive education and consistent interpretation and enforcement of the laws governing the funeral, cemetery and crematory industries.

Under the Funeral Rule, you must give a General Price List (GPL) to anyone who asks about your goods or services over the phone or in person. You must also give the GPL to individuals who inquire about arrangements on behalf of groups such as religious or memorial societies, veterans organizations and insurance companies.

Licensing requirements vary by state for both funeral directors and embalmers. Some states require a high school diploma, some have specific college courses and/or mortuary science coursework, and all have licensing examinations. To become licensed in California, you must complete a two-year apprenticeship and pass national and state board exams.

Preparing the Body

The first thing that a funeral home will do is to wash the body. This is done to remove any dirt or blood that might be on the remains, and to relieve rigor mortis by flexing and massaging the arms and legs. This is also important to reduce the risk of infection for funeral directors and others who will be handling the body.

The next step is to dress the body. This is typically done in accordance with family wishes, religious requirements and cultural beliefs. This is a time of great personal mourning and the dress should be respectful.

The body is then usually embalmed. This is a process that disinfects and preserves the remains for funeral services and burial. It’s a very common practice and it protects people who will be handling the body from potentially infectious diseases like typhoid fever, malaria and cholera. It also helps prevent odors that can be associated with decomposition.


Many funeral homes work with third parties to provide items for the final arrangements. These include cemeteries, vault companies, florists and other vendors for the service, memorial products and even printed funeral stationery. The funeral director should coordinate these items before and during the service.

Some providers enter into agreements with religious groups, burial societies or memorial societies to arrange funerals for their members on a package basis. You can offer these packages to at-need consumers as long as they are offered in addition to, not instead of, your regular price lists and Rule disclosures.

Some funeral directors present outer burial container selections through a book that contains photographs of the containers available for sale. This method allows consumers to make a selection without an in-person arrangements conference. Once the arrangements are made, the funeral home must prepare a Statement of Funeral Goods and Services Selected or similar document itemizing all charges. The family must sign this form in the presence of two witnesses.


When someone dies out of town or overseas you will need to arrange for transportation of the body. A funeral home will usually be able to coordinate these arrangements and can often provide a wide range of transport options.

The type of transportation used will vary depending on the circumstances and can include limousines that can seat several people or family cars, vans like sprinters or motor coaches, and air travel. When arranging air transport it is important that the chosen service providers have experience in handling the special requirements and documentation required to carry human remains on commercial airlines.

Depending on the circumstances, you may need to have your loved one embalmed. If this is the case, make sure that your transport service provides you with a detailed breakdown of all fees including any charges for overhead that are not allocated to the other goods and services on their General Price List (GPL). You also need to be aware of the possible additional costs for long-distance transfers, special vehicles like hearses and limousines, and preparation of the body (embalming). Many funeral homes have established relationships with transportation providers, so ask them about these.

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