Final Friends

Empowering families in caring for their own at death through compassionate guidance and education

Legal Considerations Regarding a Home Funeral

The idea of hiring a licensed funeral director to deal with burial of a loved one is fairly recent. Prior to the advent of the modern funeral director, people buried their loved ones on their own, as a family or community. In the law, the period prior to the adoption of modern statutes and regulations is referred to as “common law.” Our common law incorporates over 1,000 years of common law from England. The general rule that we follow is that whatever was legal during common law remains legal, except where modern statutes or regulations specifically provide otherwise.

Paw and Hand At common law, home funerals were not only legal; they were the only type of funeral. Florida has adopted a number of statutes and regulations affecting funerals and burials. These laws basically provide that only a licensed funeral director may charge a fee for planning and arranging a funeral. Stated differently, there is nothing contained in Florida law which prohibits a home funeral, so long as there is no fee being charged. The specifics can be found in Section 497.372, Florida Statutes. This statute, which contains the prohibition against charging a fee without a license, provides that neither preparation of a death certificate nor removing and transporting human remains to a cemetery requires a funeral director’s license. Additional provisions relevant to home funerals are found in Sections 497.002(2) and 497.391(2), Florida Statutes. These laws provide that every competent adult in Florida has the right to make decisions regarding his or her own funeral arrangements and that if he or she reduces these decisions to writing, the law may not be construed to override the written instructions as to disposition of the person’s remains.

Regulations regarding preparation of death certificates are compiled in a book entitled, Florida Department of Health/Bureau of Vital Statistics Vital Records Registration Handbook. The most recent version is the February 2015 Revision. Page 55 of the handbook specifically provides that a family member or other person may act as their own “funeral director” for purposes of arranging the burial of a loved one. The Handbook further provides that a person acting as their own “funeral director” must follow all of the applicable laws and regulations pertaining to obtaining a death certificate as well as burial of human remains. Regulations include the following:

  1. If a body is not buried within 24 hours of death, it must be maintained at a temperature not exceeding 40 degrees.
  2. A body must be transported in a container which does not allow for seepage of fluids or offensive odors.
  3. A body may not be cremated until 48 hours after death.
  4. A written transit permit must be obtained before a body may be removed from the location of death.

Final Friends can provide the guidance needed to insure that these laws and regulations are suitably adhered to. Click here to contact us or Download or print form: Written Instructions for Care, Handling, and Final Disposition of my Body After Death