Burying The Dead At Home – What You Need To Know
For many people, burying the dead at home is a perfect way to say goodbye, keeping their remains where they lived. For others, it’s simply a practical way to avoid expenses, especially with the rising costs and demand for cemetery space. Of course, there are a few legal issues attached to such an option, so here’s what you need to know.
Is It Legal?
- In most states, home burials are perfectly legal, allowing you to arrange the funeral yourself. However, there are a few states – specifically, Indiana, Connecticut, Nebraska, New York and Michigan – which require a funeral director to oversee the process at some point. This will vary from state to state and, while it may not necessarily restrict your ability to have a home burial, it will add to the costs.
Is Any Home Suitable?
- It goes without saying that a garden is required but, even then, many states often have strict limitations on what properties can and cannot be used for home burials. In many areas, this is restricted to rural or semi-rural locations, making town and city homes near impossible. Even then, there are a few obvious health and safety risks one should be aware of. For example, if your garden is near a municipality service then there may be some additional issues, and some situations may require the land to be of a certain minimal size before burials can be approved.
Who Do I Contact?
- As expected, you will need permits from a local government representative, typically the town or county clerk. This may involve further restrictions, such as how deep the body needs to be buried, as well as any relevant permits or licenses. Your local representative will also likely acquire a declaration of use, showing just where the body is buried in the plot itself. As for the land, it may also have to be registered as a family burial site or plot. Just like the rest of these permits, this all needs to be done in advance of the funeral itself.
The Immediate Steps
- After somebody dies, you can’t simply bury them straight away. Legally, the government needs to know a citizen is deceased, so a death certificate is still required. This will typically be a hospital and after this point you will need a burial transit permit. This document is what a funeral director would normally acquire to obtain the body from the hospital prior to the funeral and, in the case of home funerals, you will still need the same document.
Preserving The Body
- A large part of funeral care often focuses on preserving the body but, for the most part, few of these areas are legal. For instance, there is no legal requirement to embalm the body so you can avoid this cost altogether. Depending on the state you live in, the same might be true of other areas, such as vaults. For many, this allows people to bypass the high costs of a funeral director and focus on the things they want, such as a casket or local service.
Dealing With Funeral Directors
- If you live in one of the states that requires a funeral director to oversee the funeral, bare in mind this does not automatically stop you from having a home burial. Many directors can oversee the process within your own home, although they may offer their own cemetery. These states often just require a professional to oversee the process. Again, they may offer additional services, such as embalming, but this is not legally required. Many cemeteries, for instance, require you to purchase a vault but when it is on your own home a funeral director cannot insist this upon you.
Who Can I Ask For Help?
- Funerals are not something people are always prepared for, so it’s always useful to have somebody to turn to. In the case of home funerals, their growing recognition in America means that help is available. Specifically, the National Home Funeral Alliance cannot arrange or plan your funeral, but may be able to offer advice and specific legal information for your area. This also includes any local home death guides, unofficially known as death midwives, whom can also help you with such information. Data and laws can also be found on your local governments website, although these aren’t always easy to navigate.
As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to home burials, but the process is far from outlawed. In fact, with growing support from officials and organizations, as well as its ties into green funerals, many are already finding it a more suitable alternative to traditional cemetery services.
Robert Bruce has a passion for lending his voice towards multiple issues involving the funeral and memorial industry. When he’s not working with Great Lakes Caskets, he enjoys his hobby as a writer.