Home Funeral Requirements

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Family and friends of Mari, age 45, who died of breast cancer, decorate her casket.
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Learn about home funeral requirements and places for burial. The headstone on the first grave at Ramsey Creek Preserve, Westminster, South Carolina.

When planning a green funeral make sure you follow legal home funeral requirements.

Home Funeral Requirements

Even if you use a conventional funeral home and cemetery,
be aware that embalming, expensive caskets and concrete
vaults generally are not required by law. Cemeteries may
set such requirements, and waive them if they choose. So,
if you want a simpler burial, ask around. You may find a
funeral home and cemetery that suits your needs.

If you are thinking about handling a funeral yourself, you
should know that most states clearly allow families to care
for their own dead, according to Lisa Carlson, author of
Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act
of Love.
Only six states may limit families who
want to take charge of the process: Connecticut, Indiana,
Louisiana, Michigan (thanks to an uncooperative health
department despite a law that says otherwise), Nebraska and
New York. For more details, read Caring for the Dead,
contact Carlson at www.funerals.org. If you don’t
hire a funeral director, here are some things you should

Death Certificates. A death certificate
stating the cause of death and signed by a doctor must be
filed, usually in the county or district where death
occurs, where a body is found, or where a body is removed
from a public conveyance or vehicle. This must usually be
accomplished before other permits are granted or before
final disposition.

Embalming. No state requires routine
embalming of all bodies. Refrigeration or dry ice can
substitute for embalming in most instances. Special
circumstances such as extended time between death and
disposition can necessitate embalming under state law.
Interstate transportation by a common carrier also may
require it.

Burial permits. In some states, when
burial will be outside the county or town where death
occurred, you will need an additional permit to inter from
the local registrar in that area. In many states, the top
of the coffin must be at least 3 feet below the soil
surface. A burial location should be 150 feet or more from
a water supply and outside the utility or power line

Moving a body. Never move a body without
having a permit or medical permission in hand!

Cremation. A special permit-to-cremate may
be needed; these are available from the local coroner or
medical examiner, and a modest fee is usually charged.

Read more about green funerals: Planning a Green Funeral at Home.