Planning for Burial or Cremation

Funeral, cremation and cemetery arrangements will need to be made if your loved one has not made them ahead of time. Selecting a funeral home, also known as a mortuary, is often the first task. If your loved one passed away at home or in the hospital, family members will be asked to specify a funeral home where the body will be transferred. After you contact the funeral home, they will arrange to come to the home or hospital to take the body.

Before you begin to make any funeral arrangements, you will want to find out if any pre-planning has been done. Check to see if a "pre-need" funeral trust was established. Also check the deceased person's will for any instructions on planning a funeral.

If, before the death, you know which funeral home or willed body program you would like to use, please call Patient Relations at (415) 353-1936 with this information.

We have compiled a list of funeral homes and cremation resources for your convenience, listed below, but we do not endorse any particular business.

Decedent Affairs Program

At any point, you may contact the Patient Relations Department at (415) 353-1936 with questions about the next steps. Patient Relations coordinates the Decedent Affairs Program, which provides guidance and acts as a liaison between your family and outside agencies. The program helps with arrangements and necessary paperwork.

Staff members are available Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you wish to speak with someone in person, the office is located at 350 Parnassus Avenue, Suite 603.

Organ Donation, Tissue Donation and Autopsy

Your loved one's doctor may discuss having an autopsy performed. In accordance with federal law, you may also be approached to discuss the possibility of organ or tissue donation. The bodies of donors are treated with dignity and care. Please ask any questions you may have in order to make decisions about these choices.

Selecting a Funeral Home

It may be that your family or religious community has established a relationship with a particular funeral home. If not, a friend or relative who has been through this may make a recommendation. You might also decide to meet with funeral directors from several funeral homes to compare services and prices.

Usually, family members go to the funeral home to meet with the funeral director in person. It may be helpful to bring a friend, relative or other advisor to listen and take notes, as some of the decisions may be challenging.

If you can't go to the funeral home or do not want to, some funeral homes will accept a fax with instructions for funeral arrangements. City Cremation offers Arrangement Assistant software on their website to arrange a cremation online if your loved one is in the hospital. You will need access to a printer and fax. Some funeral homes may also send a funeral director to the hospital to meet with you. Please contact individual funeral homes directly to see if this is possible.

When you meet with the funeral director, you will decide on details of the funeral and will probably select necessary items such as the casket and grave liner, flowers and music. Having a good sense of what you want before speaking with the funeral director is helpful. Friends and family can serve as sounding boards as you consider elements of the service.

Usually this meeting also provides an opportunity to write a newspaper death notice, so it might be useful to decide in advance if you want one and, if so, what you would like included.

When you visit the funeral home, you will give information to the director to help in preparing a death certificate. You should bring a list of the following:

  • Name of deceased
  • Date and place of birth
  • Social security number
  • Father's full name and place of birth
  • Mother's full name and place of birth

We have assembled a directory of Bay Area funeral homes, listed below.

Planning a Ceremony

There are many ways to honor your loved one, and the funeral home may assist you with planning the ceremony. Options to consider include:

  • Where the ceremony will be held
  • Who will officiate at the ceremony
  • Readings and music
  • Who will read eulogies
  • Who will serve as pallbearers, if needed
  • Clothing for the deceased
  • Whether charitable donations will be requested in lieu of flowers

Environmentally Friendly Burial

Eco-friendly or natural burial usually means that there is no embalming or vault and a biodegradable casket or shroud is used. Native vegetation is planted by the burial site and a Global Positioning System (GPS) can be used to find the burial site. Prices vary for eco-friendly burials, and are not necessarily less than those for a traditional burial.

Fernwood Funeral Home in San Francisco offers eco-friendly burials.

Columbarium Facilities

A columbarium is a building that houses many urns containing burial ashes.

There are two columbariums in San Francisco: Neptune Society Columbarium and Grace Cathedral Episcopal Church. You can find their contact information in our funeral home directory, listed below.


Because of the paperwork involved, it can take one to two weeks for cremation to occur. The funeral home will discuss options for a cremation container with you. The ashes will be returned to you within two weeks of cremation, or you can arrange with the funeral home for the ashes to be scattered at sea.


Although funeral home charges vary, the overall cost of a burial can total an average of several thousand dollars, which includes basic charges for funeral home services, cost of the casket and cost of the plot. There may also be charges for a burial vault or liner, flowers and other items. You may want to contact more than one funeral home to compare prices.

Burial or Cremation for Those on Fixed Incomes

College Chapel Funeral Home offers cremation services for those with low income. The cost is $654.47.

For those who are Jewish and have limited funds, the Sinai Memorial Chapel is a valuable resource. Sinai is a non-profit organization that provides a simple burial according to Jewish tradition at no cost if resources are limited. Cremations are also available through Sinai for a fee.

Miscellaneous Charges

Other costs include obituaries and death certificates. The printing of obituaries in local newspapers is not a free service.

Families will also need to have certified copies of death certificates for completing business transactions with the deceased one's bank, insurance companies, Social Security, probate court, pensions and other business matters. You can obtain a death certificates from the funeral director or from the San Francisco Department of Public Health. They cost approximately $13 each.

San Francisco Department of Health
101 Grove St., Room 105
San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: (415) 554-2500
Business Hours: Monday to Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

You can visit the San Francisco Department of Health to obtain a death certificate, or request one by mail. For more information, call the Office of Vital Records at (415) 554-2700 or visit their website.

Donating the Body to Medical Research

Some people may choose to have their body donated to a medical research institution. Donations are integral to a wide range of educational, scientific and clinical pursuits, including gross anatomy instruction and neurological, anatomical and physiological research.

There are certain conditions that prevent acceptance from being a donor; please contact the Willed Body Program at (415) 476-1981 for information on these conditions. It is also important to notify UCSF Patient Relations at (415) 353-1936 if your loved one's body will be donated to medical research.

For more information, call the Willed Body Program at (415) 476-1981.

Directory of Bay Area Funeral Homes

Arthur J. Sullivan & Co.
2254 Market St.
San Francisco
Phone: (415) 621-4567
Fax: (415) 621-8007

Ashley McMullen
4200 Geary Blvd. (at 6th Ave.)
San Francisco
Phone: (415) 751-8403
Fax: (415) 751-8486

Bayview Funeral Home
5187 3rd St.
San Francisco
Phone: (415) 822-2820
Fax: (415) 822-2520

Bryant Funeral Home
635 Fulton St.
San Francisco
Phone: (415) 861-4559
Fax: (415) 861-2691

College Chapel Funeral Home
3434 17th St.
San Francisco
Phone: (415) 824-1313
Fax: (415) 861-9866

Driscoll's, Cominsky, and Anderson
1465 Valencia St.
San Francisco
Phone: (415) 970-8801
Fax: (415) 970-8807

Duggan's Funeral Service
3434 17th St.
San Francisco
Phone: (415) 431-4900
Fax: (415) 861-9866

Duggan's Serra Funeral home
500 Westlake Ave.
Daly City
Phone: (650) 756-4500
Fax: (650) 755-4834

Fernwood Funeral Home *
301 Tennessee Valley Rd.
Mill Valley
Phone: (415) 383-7100
Fax: (415) 383-7409
*Offers natural/eco-friendly burial

Green Street Funeral home
649 Green St.
San Francisco
Phone: (415) 433-5692
Fax: (415) 433-2290

Halsted N. Gray
1123 Sutter St.
San Francisco
Phone: (415) 673-3003
Fax: (415) 673-3006

McAvoy O'Hara
4545 Geary Blvd. (at 10th Ave.)
San Francisco
Phone: (415) 668-0077
Fax: (415) 751-7268

National Cremation Service
653 Green St.
San Francisco
Phone: (415) 781-0663
Fax: (415) 956-1894

Neptune Society
1 Loraine Ct.
San Francisco
Phone: (415) 771-0717
Fax: (415) 922-1118

Pacific Interment
2100 Folsom (at 17th St.)
San Francisco
Phone: (415) 431-9940
Fax: (415) 431-9980

Sinai Memorial Chapel
1501 Divisadero
San Francisco
Phone: (415) 921-3636
Fax: (415) 921-0426

Valente Marini Perata & Co.
4840 Mission St.
San Francisco
Phone: (415) 333-0161
Fax: (415) 333-0162

Directory of Bay Area Cremation Services

Please note that all cremation service prices are subject to change without notice. Please verify current fees with the funeral home.

Duggan's Funeral Services
3434 17th St.
(415) 431-4900
Approximately $1400

Duggan's Serra Funeral Home
500 Westlake Ave., Daly City
(650) 756-4500
Approximately $1600 – $1700

City Cremation (for people who die in the hospital)
Online application:
Approximately $775

College Chapel Funeral Home
3434 17th St.
(415) 824-1313
Approximately $654 (Shipping cremation: $100)

McAvoy O'Hara and Evergreen Mortuary
4545 Geary Blvd. (@10th Ave.)
(415) 668-0077
Approximately $1605

National Cremation
(877) 627-1947 for online forms to fax
(800) 627-7456 for local services
Approximately $1000

Neptune Society
(415) 771-0717
Approximately $1300 (additional fees apply for urn and boat)

Pacific Interment
2100 Folsom (@17th St.)
(415) 431-9940
Emeryville Phone: (510) 450-0187
Approximately $991

More Information


Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.