Attorney & Mediator
Attorney & Mediator

Funeral Planning – Burials

graveside funeral image

For those who do not wish to be cremated, several burial options are available that should be thoughtfully considered.

There is the traditional funeral with burial in which the body is embalmed, viewed and then buried in a cemetery.  As stated in previous blogs, embalming is not required unless the body will not be buried within 48 hours.

There is no Michigan law that requires a casket.  Cemeteries do require a rigid burial container.  You are under no legal requirement to purchase that from the funeral home.

Most cemeteries require a vault.  This is required to maintain the level surface of the cemetery.  Without vaults, the land over the casket would subside as the casket deteriorates.

Many individuals opt for embalming, a metal sealed casket and a vault as they believe that their loved one’s body will be protected and remain preserved.  This is not the case.  While the sealing of a casket will prevent oxygen from accelerating decomposition, there is anaerobic bacteria in the body that thrives when there is a lack of oxygen.  While sealing the casket and placing it into a vault may impede the elements, eventually, water will invade the vault and the casket.  These measures will not provide perpetual protection.

The measures that you select and the cost of employing these measures are an individual matter.

You may chose, if you live on acreage outside of the city, to bury a loved one on your own land.  You must first obtain zoning approval, a survey of the land to be used, and a permit from the health department.  It will be important to locate the burial area away from ground water.  This was a practice that was very common a hundred years ago.  Today, it is less common. This is not an option on a platted city lot and even with acreage, there will be a limitation as to the proximity of a neighbor’s property.

You must be mindful if this is the option that you select, that it may make your land difficult to sell in the future if it has a family burial ground upon it.

Funeral Planning – Cremation

Cremation urn

We have previously examined choices that are available for each of us concerning embalming and the use of a traditional wooden or metal casket.

Today, we will examine Cremation.

Cremation has become a lower cost option that has increased in popularity.  Considerations include whether you will desire a period when you are to be viewed by your loved ones, or whether you would prefer direct cremation with a memorial service.

Such a selection will influence whether embalming will be necessary.  If you prefer direct cremation, then embalming will not be necessary.  If, on the other hand, you desire a more traditional viewing by family and friends, the embalming may become a necessity due to the time element.

If you do select the more traditional viewing, you or your loved ones will select a wooden casket, as opposed to a metal one.  If you are choosing direct cremation, then you may decide that a simple unfinished wooden box or cardboard container is sufficient.

You will need to make a plan for your ashes or cremains.  Some elect to have them placed into an urn.  These can then be maintained at a family member’s home, or they can be buried.

If you prefer that your ashes be scattered, then there are some additional considerations.

You may scatter ashes upon your own property.  This is legal and acceptable.

Prior to scattering ashes upon public land, you should check with the city or county to see whether there is an ordinance concerning this issue.   The same caveat applies with federal properties.  You should request permission first.  If you want to scatter ashes in a National Park, you should consult the National Park Service website.

If you scatter ashes at sea, it must be greater than three (3) nautical miles off the shore pursuant to the Clean Water Act.  Additionally, you must notify the EPA within thirty (30) days that you have done so.  The Clean Water Act also governs inland waters.  As cremains are not considered a pollutant, there appears to be no prohibition against scattering them upon the waters.

Funeral Planning – Our Rights

Funeral cortege

Funeral Planning – Our Rights

Since we now have the right to dictate our own final plans through a Designation of Funeral Representative, it is important to understand our rights and the availability of options.

Embalming.  There is no requirement that you be embalmed if you are going to be buried or cremated within 48 hours.  While many funeral homes and funeral directors will urge this practice, it is not mandatory.

Caskets.  There is no law which requires a casket.  If you wish to be cremated, you need not have an expensive wooden casket.  Most cremation services do require a container; however, this may be an inexpensive alternate container made of unfinished wood or cardboard.

If you wish to be buried, again, there is no requirement that you have a casket; however, the individual cemeteries are free to establish their own rules concerning interment.  I will discuss “green funerals” in a future post.

You do not have to purchase your casket from the funeral home that you use.  Federal law requires funeral homes to accept caskets that families have purchased from other sources such as on-line, or home made.

As you can see, there are choices available to us and to our families when it concerns our final plans.  You must educate yourself ahead of time and have these plans detailed and ready.