Frequently Asked Questions
About Indigent/Unclaimed Death Services of Otero County
The Otero County Healthcare Services Department and Administrators extend our deepest compassion to you at this difficult time. The Indigent/Unclaimed Disposition Program works within the geographical boundaries of Otero County. Professional Crematory Services, LLC is contracted with Otero County to provide cremation. After all information has been gathered and processed, Otero County will make the determination to cover the cost of the cremation. This FAQ section is the Healthcare Services Department's intention to provide answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.
How does my family obtain a death certificate?
After the attending physician signs the death certificate and returns it to the current contracted crematory, the certificate is filed with the New Mexico Department of Health Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics. (Timeframe: 2-6 months dependent on physicians signature and reports for cause of death). Certified copies of the death certificate can be requested from the New Mexico Department of Health Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics: (505) 827-0121 or www.nmhealth.org . Neither Otero County nor Profession Crematory Services obtain death certificates on the family's behalf.
How are Veterans honored?
Upon verification and qualification from Department of Veterans Affairs, the Veteran's remains may be buried in the Fort Bliss National Cemetery. Burial in the Fort Bliss National Cemetery will be held upon the Veterans Affairs' discretion.
If a decedent left no written instructions regarding the disposition of the decedent's remains, died while serving in any branch of the United States armed forces, the United States reserve forces or the national guard and completed a United States department of defense record of emergency data form or its successor form, the person authorized by the decedent to determine the means of disposition on a United States department of defense record of emergency data form shall determine the means of disposition, not to be limited to cremation. (NMSA 1978 §24-12A-2)
For more information on VA Burials and Cremation Benefits, please visit their website.
Are there additional services for persons who received Social Security Benefits?
The Social Security Administration does not assist with the cremation or burial of persons receiving Benefits. However, the SSA may provide benefits to surviving spouses and children if certain criteria are met. Otero County Healthcare Services does not assist with this application. For more information regarding the SSA's Survivor Benefits program please visit their website.
What about a death notice in the newspaper?
It is the up to the family to place an obituary notice and cover the costs with the newspaper office.
What does "indigent" mean?
A deceased person shall be considered indigent for the purpose of Chapter 24, Article 13 NMSA 1978 Statute, if the decedent's estate is insufficient to cover the cost of cremation (NMSA 1978 §24-13-2).
What does "unclaimed" mean?
A deceased person whose body has not been claimed for the expense of disposition by a family member, friend or other interested person, shall be considered an unclaimed decedent (NMSA 1978 §24-13-3).
Who can apply for this program?
Anyone can inquire about the program, but eligibility can only be met by the decedent. There is an application process. All application forms must be completed by the decedent's next of kin or interested person(s). All forms are legally binding and some must be notarized.
How does one qualify for the program?
Qualification for this program is based solely on the decedent. The decedent must meet the indigent or unclaimed status; a resident of Otero County for a minimum of 90 days prior to time of death; and property and assets must not be sufficient to cover burial or cremation costs at time of death.
How is the process started?
Each case varies. In general, the next of kin, or interested party, fills out the application on behalf of the decedent. An appointment is made with the Otero County Healthcare office to review the application to determine eligibility. Upon approval, the crematory will be notified of Otero County's responsibility over the decedent's remains.
If you are concerned whether or not your loved one meets the program's criteria; please consult a Healthcare Review Specialist for further information.
I signed an agreement with the funeral home but I cannot afford the services.
Any signed agreement or contract with the funeral home or crematory may disqualify the decedent from program eligibility. A signed agreement or contract indicates financial responsibility has been asserted for the decedent's remains.
DO NOT sign any agreement or contract for services with a funeral home or crematory unless you are confident you are able to be financially responsible for the decedent's remains. If you signed an agreement for services, then determine you are unable to handle the financial responsibility, YOU MUST cancel the agreement with the funeral home prior to any burial or cremation services have been rendered. If services have been rendered, then you must confer with the funeral home or crematory, as per the signed agreement - Otero County no longer has authority to assist.
Who is considered next of kin?
According to NMSA 1978 §24-12A-2, legal next of kin, in order of precedence, is as follows:
- Surviving spouse;
- Majority of surviving children over the age of 18;
- Parent(s) or legal Guardian(s);
- A majority of the surviving siblings of the decedent;
- An adult who has exhibited special care and concern for the decedent, who is aware of the decedent's views and desires regarding the disposition of the decedent's body and who is willing and able to make a decision about the disposition of the decedent's body, or
- Adult person of the next degree of kinship in the order named by New Mexico Law as stated in NMSA 1978 §45-2-103.
*Only the legal next of kin may make decisions on behalf of the decedent's disposition, and sign documentation agreeing and adhering to the program's policies and procedures.
How long does the process take?
It varies on a case to case basis. The Program Administrator and the Otero County Healthcare Review Specialists will perform due diligence to ensure the qualifications are met. The Healthcare Service off will conduct extensive research through collaborative efforts with the Otero County Assessor's office, Legal Department, Office of the County Clerk, and other outside agencies such as; Office of Medical Investigator, Department Veteran's Affairs, etc. Every case is dealt with as accurately and lawfully as possible.
May the family hold a funeral/memorial service?
The Otero County Indigent/Unclaimed Program will assume custody of the body for disposition, so a funeral service or viewing with the body is not possible. Family and friends may have a memorial service conducted at their own expense. The cremated remains will not be released until Otero County Healthcare Services has been reimbursed.
The program is administrated utilizing county funding, which does not cover any other services outside of a dignified and lawful disposition of the body.
What happens to the cremated/unclaimed remains?
It is the duty of the Board of Commissioners of each county in New Mexico to decently inter or cremate the body of any unclaimed decedent person. The county shall ensure that the body is cremated no later than 30 days after a determination has been made that the body has not been claimed; but no less than 2 weeks after death. Cremated remains will be held by the contracted funeral home for a period of no more than 2 years from the time of cremation in a manner that allows for identification of cremated remains. Once the 2 years has ended, the cremated remains may be lawfully disposed of (interment entombment, enrichment-niche) by the funeral home, provided the funeral home provides Otero County with a record of the place and manner of disposition for no less than 5 years. (NMSA 1978 §24-13-1).
After the two years, all indigent cremated remains are buried in the perpetual care section of Monte Vista Cemetery. Each person will have an individual plot with a temporary marker.
Who do I Pay for the Cremated Remains?
Although PCS, LLC is allowed to receive payment for the cremated remains, pursuant to NMSA 1978 §24-13-6, Otero County Healthcare Service prefers to directly receive payment via Cashier's Check or Money Order. The crematory is not permitted to release the cremated remains until receipt of approval from Otero County Healthcare Services.
Is this information up-to-date?
Otero County's Healthcare Services updates this information regularly.