What U.S. states restrict families’ rights for home funeral sovereignty?
Home funerals are legal in every state. But in nine states, there is a legal requirement to hire and pay for help with a home funeral. These states are Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, and New Jersey. Get the specifics on your state’s laws from the Funeral Consumer Alliance.
Think about it. In all states, expectant mothers may have their babies at home; fathers may cut their children’s hair to avoid the expense of a barber; engaged couples may plan and carry out their own wedding without hiring professional planners or caterers; homeowners may snake their clogged drains to save on professional plumbing fees. And all Americans have the right to be cared for at home by their family as they near the end of life, where most people will agree they prefer to die.
In a position paper jointly written by the NHFA and the Funeral Consumer Alliance, we call for those states where these rights have been compromised to join us in restoring the rights of Americans to self-determination in funeral processes and practices.
Restoring Family Rights in Nine States
Most states do not impose a legal requirement that compels citizens to patronize a commercial funeral home, but ten do. The ways in which state laws and regulations entangle families in forced commercial transactions are varied and inconsistent. The effect of these laws goes unnoticed until a family wants to take care of their loved one after death and meets resistance.
Connecticut—requires a funeral director’s signature on the death certificate and bars anyone but a funeral director or embalmer from removing a body or transporting it.
Illinois—defines “funeral director or person acting as such” to include only funeral directors and their employees, according to Illinois Administrative code.
Iowa—recently changed its law to disallow local registrars from being able to supply burial transit permits, thus forcing families to hire funeral directors or engage medical examiners to file for them.
Indiana—says burial permits can only be given to funeral directors, though other statutes clearly refer broadly to the “person in charge” of the disposition e.g. the next of kin).
Louisiana—mandates funeral director involvement in obtaining all necessary permits and funeral director presence at the final disposition of the body. In plain terms, the state literally requires families to hire an undertaker to supervise them.
New York—has requirements similar to Louisiana’s.
Michigan—requires that death certificates be “certified” by a funeral director – though the statute doesn’t define what that means. Additionally, the wills and probate section of the law requires all body dispositions be conducted by a licensed funeral director.
Nebraska—law requires a funeral director to supervise all dispositions and gives funeral directors the right and authority to issue “transit permits” to move the body out of state.
New Jersey—requires a funeral director’s signature on the death certificate and mandates funeral director presence at the final disposition of the body.
In the ten states listed above, families lose the right to independent, private control of their affairs when a loved one dies. Few occasions are as trying or intimate for any family as a death; it’s especially unfortunate that families should be compelled to engage in an expensive and unnecessary commercial transaction when death occurs.
While it is true that a minority of Americans will choose a home funeral, and most will gladly rely on funeral directors, it is the right to choose that must be protected.
It is more than unfortunate when the state compels a citizen to hire a private business—at considerable cost—to perform something he can do for himself.