Alabama is one of only a handful of states that restrict home funerals by requiring the involvement of a licensed funeral director in many aspects of final arrangements. Here is an overview of the rules that govern home funerals in Alabama.
By law, a licensed funeral director must oversee the final disposition of a body in Alabama. State law says that "every funeral service, memorial service, or interment, or part thereof" must be under the direct supervision of a funeral director licensed by the Alabama Board of Funeral Service. (Alabama Code § 34-13-111.)
Although a funeral director must carry out disposition arrangements, the right to make final decisions about a person's body and funeral services usually goes to a relative of the deceased person.
This right and responsibility goes to the following people, in order:
To avoid confusion, it's best to make an advance directive and give your health care agent explicit permission to carry out your wishes.
For more information about making an advance directive in Alabama, see Finalization Requirements for Health Care Directives.
Note that, if you are in the military, you may name the person who will carry out your final wishes in the Record of Emergency Data provided by the Department of Defense.
Who pays for your funeral arrangements? You can either pay for your plans before you die, or you can set aside money for your survivors to use for this purpose. If you don't do either of these things, and there's not enough money in your estate to pay for funeral goods and services, your survivors must cover the costs.
Embalming is almost never required. Alabama's only law on the subject states that a body must be embalmed if it is to be transported across state lines. (Alabama Code § 22-19-2.)
The person in charge of filing the death certificate must do so within five days of the death and before disposition of the remains. (Alabama Code § 22-9A-14(a).)
You will need certified copies of the death certificate to carry out certain tasks after the death, such as arranging for the disposition of the body and transferring the deceased person's property to inheritors. The funeral director who files the death certificate should be able to order copies for you.
After filing the death certificate, the funeral director will obtain the necessary permits for transporting the body, and for burial or cremation. (Alabama Code § 22-9A-16(b).)
There are no laws in Alabama that prohibit home burial, but you should check local zoning rules before establishing a family cemetery. You can most likely hold a home burial if you live in a rural area.
You must arrange cremation through a funeral director, who will obtain the required permit from the medical examiner or coroner. (Alabama Code § 22-9A-16(a).)
For more information about cremation, including information on scattering ashes, see Burial & Cremation Laws in Alabama.
To learn more about home funerals, visit the National Home Funeral Alliance website. The book Final Rights, by Joshua Slocum and Lisa Carlson, also offers extensive information on the subject.
For more information about final arrangements and documenting your final wishes in advance, see Nolo's section on Getting Your Affairs in Order.