Cremation and the Law

Cremation and the LawWhen it comes to funeral planning, burials, and cremation, there are quite a few different considerations that come into play. In addition to the wishes of the deceased, there are legal and ethical issues that will impact how and where you are laid to rest. This is one great reason for taking advantage of everything that the funeral pre-plan industry has to offer, since you can ensure that your wishes match local laws before death occurs.

This is especially true if you are choosing to be cremated. Because so many people (your relatives included) might have strong feelings about cremation, it is best to lay out your wishes in advance. The best way to do this is to pre-plan your funeral and pay for the cremation in advance; other options include clearly stating your wishes in a will or end-of-life directive.

State and Local Laws Regarding Cremation

The amount of legal issues you’ll encounter depends primarily on the state in which you live. Many states require a signed authorization (either by you or your Power of Attorney) before cremation can occur, and even then, it must be done in conjunction with a certified funeral home.

If you have funeral plans in one state, but death occurs out of state, you will need to transport the body over state lines before it is cremated. The funeral home or crematorium you have chosen for the final interment should be able to assist with all the required paperwork in the body transfer, and they may assign you a transportation agent to ensure everything goes smoothly.

One important note is that if the deceased is being transported a long distance (over 24 hours), you may be required to embalm the body—even if you are choosing cremation. You might also opt for a casket for easier transportation. In most cases, the body will travel via air, car, or train, and with proper dispensation, you may even be allowed to carry it in your own car.

Cremation and the Law

The Cremation Process

The cremation process itself is strictly regulated to ensure that all organizations adhere to a set of standards. This means that you may not always have a say in how your loved one’s body is processed. In most cases, the crematorium will be responsible for:

• Identification of the deceased
• Holding the remains until the time of cremation
• Cremation chamber safety
• Packing and disposing of the cremains
• Adhering to public health laws

If you have any questions during this process, be sure and talk with a funeral director or the crematorium director. And if you feel that your rights are being infringed upon in any way, you can contact the Cremation Association of North America, which is considered the largest ethical overseeing body in the United States for cremation.

Once you have the cremains in hand, you are further restricted in how you can dispose of them. Human remains may not be disposed of on public land without a permit and written permission from the local government. Inland bodies of water (lakes and ponds) are also prohibited areas, and unlawful disposal can result in fines and even jail time. A “sea burial” is legal, but only in accordance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s rule of notifying the local public officials and going three miles out before you disperse the ashes.

Cremation is quickly becoming one of the more popular burial arrangement options for the modern family. Lower in overall cost, more ecologically-friendly, and providing you with the freedom to dispense of the cremains in a private way, cremation can be the right choice for you. Whether you are pre-planning a funeral for yourself or saying goodbye to someone you love, make sure you know all the rights and responsibilities before you make your final decision.

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