Every state has unique laws regulating what you can do with a body after someone has passed away. Almost every state allows home burials, although there are a few where it’s not allowed. But even in the states where it is permitted, you must still adhere to the local zoning laws.
Some states and counties have rules regarding how far burial plots must be from bodies of water, electrical lines, or roads. So, it’s best to check the local home burial laws and confirm with the local zoning board or planning commission that your intended burial plot is in an acceptable location. Others also require a funeral director to be involved in the burial process. Typically, home burials are easier in rural areas, whereas it is less common in cities where it may present health concerns.
There are 47 states that allow you to bury a body on your property. However, ten require a licensed funeral director to oversee the process.
States that permit home burials without a funeral director:
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
The other ten that do permit home burials require a funeral director. However, the exact responsibilities they are required to carry out vary from state to state. New York and Louisiana are the strictest, as they require the funeral director to oversee virtually everything related to the transportation, funeral, and burial of the body. Other states are more lenient and only require the funeral director to file the death certificate.
States that permit home burials but require a funeral director:
- New Jersey
- New York
Each state also has unique zoning laws, embalming and cremation requirements, and rules regarding public funerals. For example, New Mexico requires bodies to be buried 6 feet deep, while New Jersey requires a minimum of four. Others require you to report any suspicion of contagious diseases to an attending physician or a particular government agency. So, even in states where home burials are permitted, you should still check the local laws to ensure you’re following the necessary protocols.
Only three states do not permit home burials: California, Indiana, and Washington State. Washington, DC, also does not permit home burials, although mostly because there isn’t enough open space.
But there is a way to get around this rule if you live in one of the states where home burials are permitted but still want to be laid to rest on your own property. These states require all bodies to be buried in an established cemetery. However, you can apply to turn part of your property into a family cemetery.
California and Indiana both allow home burials with a special permit. Washington is a bit stricter and requires that registered cemetery corporations complete all burials. However, a bill was recently approved by the Washington State House of Representatives that will make it easier to have a private family burial. So, the restrictions may soon change.
To apply to create a family cemetery, contact the county clerk’s office and request the necessary paperwork and burial permits. You may also need to have your land surveyed and assessed to ensure it is suitable for a home cemetery. But if everything checks out, your permit should be approved, and you can move forward with home burial as planned.
Home burials are more common than you might imagine, and most states allow them as long as you adhere to the local laws and zoning regulations. Even in the states that don’t permit home burials, you can find ways to get around the rule if you are determined. However, you must familiarize yourself with the local zoning laws and burial customs to avoid any issues.