Funeral Services for a Loved One in JailArranging a funeral may be a difficult and demanding task under any circumstances. The situation may be even more complex when a loved one dies while incarcerated. Prolonged separation may already have put stress on a family. The death of a loved one while he or she is in jail may have intense emotional and psychological consequences. In what may be an extraordinarily difficult time, it may be helpful for the family to understand the basics of how funeral services work for people held in government institutions. There are general guidelines to follow to reclaim a loved one and provide a personalized service if that is what the family desires.

Long Term Planning

When a person is in jail for a long period of time, or expects to be, a lawyer may suggest that the inmate make a will that outlines his or her intent as far as funeral services are concerned. A person in jail has the same options as anyone else. It is not uncommon, however, for a person to make a choice to donate his or her body to science. While this gesture may be a gift to medical research, it has other benefits as well. Primarily, when a person donates their body, there are no funeral costs for the surviving family. Many people who spend a longer portion of their lives in prison may see this as a way to lighten or avoid entirely a financial burden on their loved ones.

Family Services

Some families may feel that they would prefer to reclaim the body of their loved one and provide a more personalized funeral service. Clear and timely communication may be key to getting the kind of closure a family seeks in this situation. It is important for families to contact the appropriate authorities as soon as they are aware of the death of their loved one. They may claim the body and take responsibility for its care as long as there is nothing in the loved one's will to prevent it. In that case, a family may need to consult a lawyer if they wish to proceed. The best way to prevent that sort of complication may be to discuss funeral plans directly with the loved one before his or her death. Questions to ask may include:

  • Would you prefer to be buried, cremated, or do you prefer another option?
  • Do you have a will, and does it state what you want?
  • Have you authorized the person you want to handle your funeral services?

Official Responsibility

Government agencies have policies in place to take care of funeral services for people who die while incarcerated. If a family member, spouse, or authorized individual cannot pay for services, arrangements may be made to bury, cremate or even donate the body of the loved one. It may be helpful to know that if one signs over the rights to funeral services to the corrections department, the government may handle all arrangements and manage the person's belongings and records without consulting or involving the family. Sometimes families may sign over rights thinking that they will not be able to pay for a funeral when the time comes, so they might the state take care of it. Families should know, however, that there may be options for payment. It may be possible to arrange something with a funeral director in advance if that is what is really wanted. A lawyer may be able to offer some pertinent advice as well. It may be difficult or intimidating to navigate official systems, but for families that wish to experience the kind of closure that may be had from a private funeral service, early communication may ease the process later on.

Category: Funeral

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