Eligibility Requirements

Eligibility for the Indigent/Unclaimed Cremation Program is based on the deceased person, whose criteria must meet either Indigent or Unclaimed status and the residency requirement, per New Mexico Statute at time of death.

Indigent Status

Deceased persons shall be considered to be indigent if the estate is insufficient to cover the cost of burial or cremation. (NMSA 1978 §24-13-2)

Unclaimed Status

If a deceased person has not been claimed by a relative, friend, or other interested person assuming the responsibility for and expense of disposition shall be considered an unclaimed decedent (NMSA 1978 §24-13-1).


A resident is defined as someone who has lived in Otero County for a minimum of 90 days prior to the time of passing.

If the deceased person is declared indigent, cremation expenses shall become the responsibility of the County or residence of the deceased person (NMSA 1978 §24-13-3). If the decedent is not a resident of Otero County at the time of death, Otero County cannot proceed any further and will send/direct requester to the appropriate county of residence. In the event that the decedent's primary residence is out of the State of New Mexico, but he or she passed away in Otero County, the occurrence will be handled on a case by case basis.

Property Assets / Ownership

If the decedent is unclaimed (no known next of kin) and had assets/property of sufficient value to defray the expenses of cremation or burial, invoices for the expenses shall be forwarded to such person or official authorized by law to be appointed administrator of the estate of the deceased to pay expenses from the estate (NMSA 1978 §24-13-3). All available assets of the deceased shall be used to reimburse the county for the cost of burial or cremation. Should the county be required to pay expenses for burial or cremation of an unclaimed decedent who has left an estate, the estate shall reimburse the county for those expenses (NMSA 1978 §24-13-5).

To the extent that the deceased person is indigent, the burial or cremation expenses shall be borne by the county of residence of the deceased person. If the county of residence of the deceased person is not known, the burial or cremation expenses shall be borne by the county in which the body was found. (NMSA 1978 §24-13-3)