Can I Be Buried on Private Property?

by P-Francone

Burying a body on private property may be possible but requires a lot of paperwork and doesn’t ensure that the grave will be cared for by future generations.

The practice of being buried on private property is an ancient one, and one that is still very common in third world countries. However, in the United States it is very rare, difficult to do and not preferred by most people.

There are many questions to ask if you are serious about being buried on private property. Who will be living on the property afterwards? What are the laws and regulations required in order to do this? Can the property ever be sold after, and would anyone want to buy it?

In New York State, there are no state laws regarding private burials, however many cities, towns and communities do have bylaws regarding it, and a funeral director must be hired. Indeed, the state also does not allow ‘cemeteries’, or anywhere that has human remains buried to be mortgaged, at the time or ever again.

Bodies must be brought to a hospital after death so that a licensed medical professional can certify the death, autopsies may be required depending on the circumstances of death. Some states, such as California require a “Permit for Disposition”. You will also, generally, have to provide a casket, coffin or other suitable container to transport the body from the hospital. In Georgia however, no permits at all are required to transport the body in-state, but certain counties or townships may require one.

It is possible to take care of the entire funeral process without a Funeral Director in many states, but highly unadvisable, due to many reasons including the number of legal issues involved. In Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska and New York it is illegal to not use a Funeral Director. Some states, such as Indiana do not allow bodies to be buried anywhere other than a cemetery. Although Funeral Directors may not be legally required in the other 44 states and the District of Columbia, families still must obtain a death certificate and a burial transit permit to remove the body from the hospital. States differ in the length of time available to have the death certificate completed, for example Arizona allows 72 hours, whereas California only allows 15 hours. A body may not be buried until the form has been filled out, and if you wait too long to bury the body it has to be brought to a refrigeration unit at a Funeral Home or hospital.

Most states only require embalming when the person has died due to a transferable disease, except for Hawaii where it is actually illegal to embalm anyone who died in this manner. The reasoning is that the states have a different understanding of which way is better to stop the spread of disease.

If the body was cremated and you wish to scatter the ashes, there are many regulations regarding this as well, although not as many as if you want to bury the entire body yourself. California Health and Safety Code Section 7116 states that cremated remains may be scattered wherever there are no bylaws prohibiting it, as long as the ashes are not noticeable to the public, are not in a container, and that the person doing the scattering has written permission from the property owner or ‘governing agency’ to scatter on their property. As well as this, people in the state are not allowed to dispose of more than 10 people’s remains in a year unless they are licensed cemetery or funeral home operators.

Bottom line, if you really want to be buried on your own property, it is most likely possible, but it generally will cause many more headaches for your descendants then simply being buried at a registered cemetery or memory garden, where your remains will be cared for in perpetuity.

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