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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 stored by the crematory 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 by the crematory, provided the crematory provides Otero County with a record of the place and manner of disposition. Records will be kept 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 the Monte Vista Cemetery. Each person will have an individual plot with a temporary marker. If a family member or interested person wishes to place a permanent marker at the burial site, cost for the disposition must be reimbursed to the county.
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All certificates are filed with the New Mexico Department of Health Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics. 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 visit the New Mexico Department of Health website. Neither Otero County nor Profession Crematory Services obtain death certificates on the family's behalf.
Upon verification and qualification from Department of Veterans Affairs, the Veteran's remains may be buried in the Santa Fe National Cemetery.
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)
Please visit the VA Burials and Cremation Benefits website for more information.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) 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. Please visit the SSA's Survivor Benefits program website for further information.
Receipt of SSA benefits does not preclude a decedent from qualifying for the program.
It is the up to the family to place an obituary notice and cover the costs with the newspaper office.
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).
A deceased person whose body has not been claimed by a friend, relative, or other interested person assuming the responsibility for and expense of disposition is considered an unclaimed decedent (NMSA 1978 §24-13-1).
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 may need to be notarized under certain circumstances.
Qualification for this program is based solely on the decedent.
The decedent must meet the indigent or unclaimed status; be 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.
The Disposition Program operates within the geographical boundaries of Otero County.
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 Healthcare Services Department office to review the application and 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 contact the Healthcare Services Department further information.
A signed agreement with a funeral home or crematory to prepare services 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 an agreement for services unless 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.
Please note that termination of an agreement with a funeral home is soley based upon the funeral home's discretion. Otero County does not assist in this matter.
According to NMSA 1978 §24-12A-2, legal next of kin, in order of precedence, is as follows:
*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.
Determination varies on a case to case basis. The Healthcare Services Department will perform due diligence to ensure the qualifications are met. The Department 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.
Otero County 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 has been reimbursed for the cost of services rendered.
The program is administrated utilizing county funding, which does not cover any other services outside of a dignified and lawful disposition of the body.
The Healthcare Services Department will receive reimbursements or payments for services rendered to decedents for the following reasons:
At this time, we accept cashier's checks or money order to be paid directly to the Healthcare Service Department. Or, you may make cash or credit card payments at the Treasurer's office. There may be additional fees associated with payments at the Treasurer's office.
To determine the amount to reimburse the county for each decedent, please refer to the Indigent and Unclaimed Decedents List.
The Healthcare Services Department updates this information regularly.