County seeking ways to pay for cremation costs of unclaimed deceased individuals who leave behind property

(Lander, Wyo.) – The Fremont County Commission yesterday met with the Fremont County Coroner and local funeral home directors to discuss how to handle payment for services for unclaimed deceased individuals. The primary problem, mentioned by many, is what to do when the individual has known family who refuse to claim the body but don’t mind claiming the person’s belongings.

By statute, Coroner Ed McAuslan said, his office has to ensure proper care of unclaimed bodies. The local funeral homes reportedly charge $1,800 at a minimum for cremation and related costs. Cemetery costs are not included, which is reportedly leading to quite a storehouse of urns in the Coroner’s Office. Families who want to claim the ashes have to pay the county for associated costs.

At one point in time, the Coroner’s Office would seize a deceased individual’s property for use to pay for funeral home costs should no one claim the body. However, McAuslan said state statutes make it unclear what his office may seize, and the County Attorney’s Office has advised his office to not take items that are not directly on the body.

Commission Chairman Doug Thompson said he didn’t think it was right that taxpayers should have to pay for costs that most families take responsibility for themselves. Commissioner Travis Becker said it shows a “real sad state of society” that people would not claim family member’s bodies but expect to be able to take their belongings. Both McAuslan and some of the funeral home representatives believe that some people are gaming the system.

There was also some discussion about how the county or funeral homes might legally compel next of kin to pay for costs with property acquired from the deceased. The county accepts that when an individual has no family or friends and leaves behind nothing to pay for funeral costs, costs must be dealt with.

Ultimately, the County Attorney’s Office was directed to look into the probate process that the county could enter into to acquire a deceased individual’s possessions to pay for costs, including when family refuses to claim bodies but take property. The county agreed to go ahead and pay the funeral homes for four out-standing cases. Commissioner Stephanie Kessler also suggested asking for local legislators for help in drafting bills that might clarify the situation for all involved.



  1. Tina Marie Burton

    Just a suggestion, for people that die and don't have any one claiming them, maybe an allotment of a certain dollar amount could be set aside to pay for cremation and burial but only apply the minimum dollar amount to the service so you don't exhaust the funds. Also, apply the same dollar amount to each unclaimed person. Also depending on the definition of what is considered seizable you could put that towards the allotment funds.

  2. Randy Ray

    Or maybe give up some of their raises they gave themselves this month.

  3. Garry Lagois

    You can't really believe it cost 1800 for cremation sound like the funeral homes are as crooked as the commission

  4. Tina Marie Burton

    Well I am not sure what the going rate for cremation is but maybe the ballpark figure is at the minimum mentioned in the article. Maybe the maximum is over 5k. I don't know. But reasonably they could set a dollar amount for unclaimed persons and stick with it. As I said each unclaimed person would have the same allotment of funds for cremation/burial. Also the people that have persons/family to claim them should pay for the deceased person's belongings. And maybe for a suggestion, the persons claiming the belongings could take a backseat and see if the Funeral home could use the assets of the deceased to make payments for the cost of cremation/burial. Then whatever is left, the family/persons claiming the deceased's belongings can have it and do what they want. Obviously this has to have some thought.

  5. Beth Pohl

    This problem is an issue elsewhere as well but some Stateline Arizona have opportunities for people to donate their body after death to science. Yes it is not an option for some cultures but in Arizona we are fortunate to have several business/companies that provide for this option. The catch is that the person has to sign up when alive or family can after death but these companies provide return of the creaminess to the family for free. Wyoming may be too far from these services but they are an option that saves the family from the situation above and saves the county from the problems listed in the article. There was an affiliate in Fort Collins about 5years ago but they could not cross state lines. And yes there was a company in the news recently that were not ethical but there are others that are licensed and accredited. I understand the delema you are facing and hope the State of Wyoming or Fremont County can provide for the people that do not take responsibility for their or their family members final arrangements.

  6. Beth Pohl

    Sorry for spellcheck State of AZ and cremains

  7. US Funerals

    I do not know where the $1,800 figure for a basic cremation came from. There are funeral homes in every area that will do a cremation for less than this. Most of the DFS Memorials funeral homes offer a direct cremation for between $596 and $995.

  8. Deacon Robert W. Henry

    No doubts in every state this continue to be a grave problem. Unclaimed deceased that family members refuse; morgues filled to the top; funding is not there and attempts to contact family members are often failures because they just don't or can't handle the finances to make proper disposals. Every deceased must be accounted for in some manner…leaving to the counties where in so many cases families say, the county will bury them and that is now an understatement per sey. Cremains are left at funeral homes for years as well so what is there to do with all of this falls on shoulders of others to figure it out. That is easy said than done because no one want to be held accountable. (If your love one don't mean that much to you and you don't care that much for them, you don't claim their remains within 24 hours timeframe; what do you wish to be done and will you ensure the final disposal is carried out.) One day that could be you. Take you time and figure out how you can claim and make the memorial disposition of your love ones because that is the right thing to do. Be cremation at a lower fee, or direct burial. One of those should fit right in with a small budget from family or friends; that manner is some type of memorial for that deceased knowing you want some type of memorial yourself.

  9. Jack Dollarhide

    Sky burial.

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