Death Certificate Stalls Funeral

By: Brian Johnson Email
By: Brian Johnson Email

As if losing a loved one isn't hard enough, but when you hit road blocks in planning their funeral it can be devastating.

"You don't even want to know frustration. It's not even frustration. It's anxiety and I am so mad." said Tracy Faust from Lansing.

Her mother, Tonia Lee O'Berry, died August 29. However more than a week later, her mother still hasn't been buried and won't be-- because Faust is in limbo.

"I need the funds to bury her. But they won't give me the money to bury without the death certificate, and I can't have the death certificate without the funds," explained Faust.

She says the funeral home Gorsline Runciman won't release the death certificate she needs to get the money her mom left her in the bank to pay for funeral costs.

It's a vicious cycle.

"She took care of me. I took care of her," said Faust.

She says for eight years she has taken care of her mom as primary care giver instead of working. She has no way to pay the thousands of dollars in funeral costs.

"You know if you can't prepay arrangements with a funeral home... you are going to get really hit up hard if something happens," said Tamara Beam, a family friend.

She says she's seen other people go through the same situation, and they ended up having to take out a loan to float money and cover the funeral costs.

"You have to plan ahead and be forewarned that you are going to run into all this bureaucratic red tape," said Beam.'

A person at the county clerks office Friday said state law requires death certificates be filled out within 48 hours of the death. However people get into a gray area when the certificates aren't turned in to the county clerk.

Legally, a funeral home can hold a body until someone pays. A spokesperson from the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs said there aren't rules governing that.

The department isn't able to do anything to intervene even if people complain.

Friday afternoon Bob Hubble the marketing director at Gorsline Runciman Funeral Homes said Faust's case is a private matter and he would not comment at all on the topic. Hubble said the funeral home does its best to work with families who may have financial issues and make sure their loved ones get a dignified burial.


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