Funerals in the USA rarely happen on the same day that someone dies, and so to postpone the onset of decomposition it will be necessary to store the deceased before they are buried or cremated. This may happen at a hospital or local mortuary, or at a funeral home itself.
Storage of decedents in refrigerated morgues costs on average $115 per day. Often the first 24 to 72 hours are covered in basic funeral home packages, but not always. Daily charges normally follow an initial custodian charge or funeral package, which can be thousands of dollars themselves.
There is no common practice among funeral homes and mortuaries when it comes to storing the dead before they are disposed of. Many of these establishments do charge a fixed fee per day, but when they charge this and after what initial fees vary greatly.
For a better understanding of this funeral service and to get a good idea of the overall cost of storing a body in a morgue, feel free to read the rest of this article.
How much does storing a body really cost?
The actual cost of storing a body before a funeral depends on several factors, not least of which is the policies held by a funeral home or mortuary.
You can expect to pay a daily refrigeration charge of as little as $25 and as much as $550 depending on where the body is being held. This may follow the basic packages for burial or cremation which often include a certain number of days of refrigeration already.
If you were to store a body in a morgue or similar establishment for a week (beyond what you already have covered in your funeral package) you could expect to pay anywhere between $175 and $3850, with $810.52 being the average price.
It’s very important that you establish very clearly with your funeral home or mortuary of choice exactly what the fees are and when you need to start paying them.
Average price of storing a body (mortuary & funeral homes)
While I was doing my research for this article, I called up several different mortuaries and funeral homes which have their own cold storage area. Below you will find a list of the price, mostly per day, after a given period. All of the establishments in California are required to refrigerate an unburied or cremated decedent after 24 hours by law.
Some of the listed businesses started to charge these daily fees on the first day, while others only charged them after a few days.
|$195||?||Boakes Funeral Home||NJ||Price list|
|$50||Yes||Star Mortuary & Crematory||NV||Price List|
|$85||Yes||Mckenzie Mortuary Services||CA||Price List|
|$50||Yes||Oconnor Mortuary||CA||Price List|
|$75||Yes||Jenkins Funeral Chapel||OH||Price List|
|$185||Yes||Robert L. Adams Mortuary||CA||Price List|
|$50||Yes||Rose Family Funeral Home||CA||Price List|
|$150||?||Mefisher Funeral Home||VA||Price List|
|$50||Yes||Wells Funeral Home||NC||Price List|
|$250||?||Todd Memorial Chapel||CA||Price List|
|$50||Yes||Harper Funeral Home||IN||Price List|
|$75||Yes||Ryan Mortuary||KS||Price List|
|$30||Yes||David Martens Funeral Home||OH||Price List|
|$110||Yes||Abel Funeral Services||AZ||Price List|
|$80||Yes||Grissom’s Mortuary||CA||Price List|
|$35||Yes||Olson Funeral Home||WI||Price List|
|$75||Yes||Boyd Funeral Homes||CA||Price List|
|$100||Yes||Premier Funeral||UT||Price List|
|$75||Yes||Angelus Funeral Home||CA||Price List|
|$175||Yes||Fukui Mortuary||CA||Price List|
|$50||Yes||Nelson Mortuary||UT||Price List|
|$400||Yes||Blair Mazzarella||NY||Price List|
|$95||Yes||Callaghan Mortuary||CA||Price List|
|$50||Yes||Victor Valley Mortuary||CA||Price List|
|$75||Yes||Khan Funeral Home||CA||Price List|
|$75||Yes||Burnam And Son Mortuary||KY||Price List|
|$100||Yes||Inglewood Funeral Home||CA||Price List|
|$75||Yes||Sinai Chapel||CA||Price List|
Below you will see a table of some of the same establishments listed above and when they will start charging additional fees for refrigeration after receiving the body.
Some of the establishments allowed for a period of 24 hours right up to 7 days before charging anything on top of their basic package price. Whereas, others seem to charge the storage price on top of the package price immediately after collecting the body.
The average delay before starting a daily charge of, on average, $115 for morgue storage was just 38 hours.
|48||Boakes Funeral Home||NJ||Price List|
|72||Star Mortuary & Crematory||NV||Price List|
|24||Mckenzie Mortuary Services||CA||Price List|
|168||Oconnor Mortuary||CA||Price List|
|0||Jenkins Funeral Chapel||OH||Price List|
|24||Robert Ladams Mortuary||CA||Price List|
|168||Rose Family Funeral Home||CA||Price List|
|<24||Greenwood Memorial||CA||Price List|
|24||Wiefels Mortuary||CA||Price List|
|<24||Mefisher Funeral Home||VA||Price List|
|24||Wells Funeral Home||NC||Price List|
|<24||Todd Memorial Chapel||Price List|
|96||Harper Funeral Home||IN||Price List|
|<24||Ryan Mortuary||KS||Price List|
|<24||David Martens Funeral Home||OH||Price List|
|48||Abel Funeral Services||AZ||Price List|
|120||Grissom’s Mortuary||CA||Price List|
|<24||Olson Funeral Home||WI||Price List|
|<24||Boyd Funeral Homes||CA||Price List|
|<24||Premier Funeral||UT||Price List|
|0||Angelus Funeral Home||CA||Price List|
|<24||Fukui Mortuary||CA||Price List|
|<24||Nelson Mortuary||UT||Price List|
|<24||Blair Mazzarella||NY||Price List|
|24||Callaghan Mortuary||CA||Price List|
|72||Victor Valley Mortuary||CA||Price List|
|72||Khan Funeral Home||CA||Price List|
|<24||Burnam And Son Mortuary||KY||Price List|
|<24||Inglewood Funeral Home||CA||Price List|
|72||Sinai Chapel||CA||Price List|
|Average – 38 hours|
How long can a body stay in the morgue?
A body can remain at the mortuary for as long as it is necessary before it can be disposed of and for as long as there is space for it.
Except in the case of an unclaimed body of a homeless person, funeral homes and mortuaries are not in the habit of removing bodies before a funeral nor trying to rush the process. In fact, while their mortuaries are occupied they can make a good amount of profit in many cases.
How quickly are bodies buried or cremated?
After reading this, you may be panicking and thinking that you will have to pay thousands of dollars just to keep your deceased loved one in a fit condition for their funeral. But you really shouldn’t worry.
In the USA, most funerals will be conducted within one week of death. When the death was expected and plans were already made, this can reduce the timeline down to as little as 3 days. With unexpected death, the delay can be more than 7 days if the family has to gather and last-minute arrangements made.
Many funeral homes already include the storage of the body and its care within their packages, both the more affordable ones and the luxuries ones. You may need to pay for a few days extra if circumstances call for it, but rarely will refrigeration of a body run into thousands of dollars.
By the way, have you considered what you will do with the ashes when you retrieve them? Although scattering them in an important place or storing them in an urn is traditional, another great option is to get the ashes made into a permanent piece of jewelry, you should check out the beautiful handcrafted pieces Mark Hamilton makes with cremains by visiting his site here.
Do you legally have to refrigerate a body?
In many states, there are no direct laws that say you MUST refrigerate a body after death. They often just refer to the proper disposal of the body within a timely manner. Some states, California, for example, clearly state that a body needs to be refrigerated after a certain amount of time, in this case, 24 hours.
You can find out more about burial laws for your state by visiting this page.
Is embalming a body cheaper than refrigeration?
Embalming a body is often an additional charge and not included in most standard burial or cremation packages. It’s also normally completely unnecessary, especially for closed casket funerals and you can refuse this additional service.
The average embalming service will cost around $400, although it can be closer to $1000 in many funeral homes around the country.