For those who die without sufficient resources for cremation or burial, there are limited options available. Under Washington State law, the next-of-kin is liable for the cost if the deceased left no funds for funeral arrangements. In some cases, the deceased may have a death benefit through a union or employer–typically in the form of a life insurance policy. Veterans may qualify for a variety of benefits which are detailed under the Veterans section of this website.
In 1993, the responsibility for the disposition of unclaimed indigent remains was transferred from Washington state authority to that of individual counties Each county now administers its own indigent cremation program, generally through the county medical examiner or coroner’s office. The program requirements and benefits vary significantly from county to county but generally only provide for cremation not burial. Due to the current economic crisis, many counties have insufficient funds available to fully cover the costs for those who qualify. Often the funeral homes are forced to provide these services at less than cost.
For information regarding indigent cremation programs, in King County call: 206-732-3232, Snohomish County: 425-438-6200 and Pierce County: 253-798-6494. For the websites of coroners and medical examiners statewide.
Due to the limited resources available, the PEOPLE’S MEMORIAL Education Fund is launching a new program where the proceeds from the sale of donated cemetery lots will be made available for the indigent cremation or burial of qualified individuals. This program is only available to the extent that we have funds on hand. To qualify, the funeral arrangements must be handled through a funeral home which is contracted with PEOPLE’S MEMORIAL Association.