Indigent Cremation

The Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner's Indigent Cremation program is ideally for the deceased person without an estate who has no family and therefore no monetary sources to handle the disposition of remains. The program is also applicable when a family has no resources of their own to pay for the disposition.

The California State Health and Safety Code 7103 and 7104 states that the legal next of kin, as dictated in the California State Health and Safety Code 7100, is financially responsible for handling the disposition of the deceased's remains. Please note that the legal next of kin can be held financially responsible for the amount of disposition in a civil action. If the legal next of kin fails to inter the remains, after thirty (30) days, the Medical Examiner-Coroner will proceed with Indigent Cremation.

If your family member becomes an indigent person, the County of Santa Clara is financially responsible for the disposition. The deceased are handled with dignity. When a person is declared indigent, the process takes an additional thirty days (30) for the disposition to occur. The first step is the decedent is offered to the State of California's Willed Body Program. This office is required by law (Health & Safety Code 7200) to report all unclaimed persons to the State Curator's office whose disposition would otherwise be paid for by public monies. If the decedent is not accepted by the State Curator, a direct cremation will ensue. The remains are held in an established vault for six months, after which time they are scattered at sea or at a scatter garden (only upon request). The cremated remains are not returned to family members.

There is an application process for program approval. If a family is interested, please fill out the Indigent Cremation paperwork (link below) and mail it or bring it to the Medical Examiner-Coroner's Office in person. The paperwork can only be completed and submitted by the legal next of kin. The investigation will generally take thirty (30) days upon receipt of these papers. The application will be denied if there are significant assets available. You will be notified by mail or telephone about the decision.

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