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Help Navigating the Legalities: Urn Rules and Regulations

Cremation and other forms of burial are growing in popularity as an end-of-life choice. As it continues to gain popularity, we find those interested in understanding the law surrounding cremation in the U.S. As a body is reduced to ashes in the cremation process, there are quite a few laws governing the cremation of a body, such as who can authorize a cremation, licensing, operational requirements, and how long a cremation can be performed after death. 
Today, we’ll briefly examine some information that may help you navigate the legalities, rules, and regulations for cremation and urns

Who Can Authorize a Cremation? 

In most cases, the next of kin authorizes a cremation. In some states, this person may be called the “authorizing agent.” For a cremation to proceed, the next of kin must sign an authorization form or declaration for the disposition of cremated remains. 

Next of kin are the spouse, parents, adult children, siblings, adult grandchildren, nephews or nieces, maternal grandparents, paternal grandparents, adult aunts or uncles, first cousins, or any other adult relative in descending order of blood relationship. 

Suppose there is more than one legal next of kin; for example, a parent unexpectedly passes, and several children are left to make funeral arrangements. In that case, all children must agree and sign the cremation authorization form. 

Are State and Local Laws on Cremation or Burials Urns the Same? 

Each state and County within that state will likely have its own variations on federal cremation regulations. Unfortunately, it means you must search for and look up the State and County rules and regulations for cremation and cremation urns.  

In general, there is at least a 24-hour waiting period after the death before the deceased can be cremated, but in some states, the law states that 48 hours must lapse between death and cremation. Only the coroner or public health department can override this wait if there is a public health concern and the body must be immediately disposed of. 

Is A Casket Required for a Cremation? 

No, you do not require a casket or coffin for cremation.

Most state laws stipulate that an ‘alternative container,’ which can be any rigid, combustible container, is needed for the act of cremation itself and is commonly used during the process. 

Suppose you are requesting a religious or memorial service from a funeral home and wish to acquire a casket. In that case, you may reserve a rental casket supplied by the cremation provider or funeral home. 

Are There Laws About What I do With my Loved Ones Cremated Remains? 

Laws governing what you can and cannot do with cremated remains can differ from state to County. You should always check your specific state laws. 

In general, the most common guidelines are: 

  • You cannot blend cremated remains unless with the specific request of the deceased. 
  • You are permitted to keep cremated remains at your home. 
  • You may bury or store ashes in a niche or columbarium. 
  • You may add cremated remains to an existing grave, for example, a spouse or family member already buried. 
  • You may scatter cremated remains in a designated place, such as a memorial garden.
  • You may scatted remains on private or public property with the appropriate permissions. 
  • Cremated remains can also be transported if needed.

Can A Body Be Transported to a Different State to be Cremated? 

Yes, the deceased can be transported across a state line for cremation. If the deceased will be transported over a vast distance or over a period that exceeds 24 hours, some states may require that the body be embalmed. Airline funeral shipping has specific regulations to meet, which may involve using a designated air-friend mortuary shipping container. 

Can Obese or Overweight People Be Cremated? 

Yes. There are no laws governing a weight cut-off for cremation. However, it is essential to know that it can be more complex and costly to arrange a cremation for a much larger person. The crematory will need a wider retort chamber door, stronger cremation containers, and extra lifting equipment to fit a larger container through. In most cases, obese or very large people will mean crematories will charge an additional fee to cremate a bariatric person. 

Where Can I Find More Information On State Cremation Laws?

  • Visit your state’s official government website. Often, it is the Department of State in charge of cremation regulations. In Texas, it is the Texas Funeral Service Commission; in Arizona, it is the State Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers. 
  • Visit the State Funeral Director Association website. 
  • State licensing department
  • State Environmental Protection Agency
  • State division of cemeteries
  • The Office of Vital Records

It can be emotionally challenging and exhausting to make final arrangements for a loved one. Especially since the necessary planning and knowledge needed beforehand to ensure you make the right decisions can be complex to handle when processing your grief and loss. While no one enjoys pre-planning for the end of life, spending the time now when clarity of thought and emotion are aligned can save you from stress and heartbreak.

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