Indigent Burial in Massachusetts
The purpose of this web page is to make available background material which I
have gathered over the past several years.
Byron Blanchard, former Treasurer of The Memorial Society, Inc., d/b/a
Funeral Consumers Alliance of Eastern Massachusetts, now just a volunteer
interested in regulatory issues.
The assistance of Department of Transitional Assistance, Massachusetts
Funeral Directors Association, and Peter Stefan is gratefully
Background articles in our annual newsletter 1999,
1998 price survey of 48 funeral homes: PDF
What are the authorizing statutes?
There are several other statutes providing a similar stipend. I haven't
found them all, but one is:
Section 130. Commissioner's duties and powers; supervisors; divisions and
directors; assistance to blind persons; funeral expenses
This is puzzling, since I believe DTA handles all indigent burial
funds, except for veterans.
Indigent veterans are covered under a completely different statute, with
a different, larger stipend paid by a different agency:
Section 8. Payment and reimbursement of burial expenses; certificate.
Note that it distinguishes between service and merchandise provided
by a funeral home, and those provided by a cemetery -- a very important
The increase in stipend was by an outside section in the 1998 appropriation bill
Who are the major providers of service? A 1999 answer from DTA.
What are the DTA procedures for claiming the stipend? DTA Memos
What does the DTA application form look like? DTA Application
What does the DTA invoice form look like? DTA
What services and merchandise are actually provided? 25 typical invoices from 1999
Do funeral homes have to handle
indigent burials? MFDA Requests for
Advisory Ruling They received no answer to either request!
Ron Harrell explains the problem in a plea to the Board of Registration: PDF
How do other states handle this? MFDA survey
Massachusetts Funeral Directors Association comment on 2005 House Bill 2827
2005-2006 Legislative Actions -- Seven Bills were filed of which five went
to Children and Families Committee and two went to Public Health Committee.
Each Committee reported out favorably one bill, the former H2827 and the latter H2642. Those two bills then went to House Ways
and Means Committee where they died. The other bills considered in Children
and Families Committee were S74, S89, S142, and
H2837. The other bill considered in Public
Health Committee was H2643.
2005 Bill H2827 would have made a great improvement in the situation by
eliminating the ridiculous list of goods and services that are to be provided
for the $1,100 stipend, which was unchanged. It is a shame it wasn't
2003-2004 Legislative Actions -- Four Bills were filed H351, H706, S754, and S826. None were enacted. Unfortunately I didn't
archive the Bill History files, so we don't have the details.
Every earlier session since at least 1995 had at least one bill filed to
raise the stipend but as we recall they all left the list of goods and
[last revised 2007-01-02]