Burial & Cremation Laws in Idaho

Everything you need to know about burial, cremation, and other post-death matters in Idaho.

Each state has laws affecting what happens to a body after death. For example, most states have unique rules about embalming, burial or cremation, scattering ashes, and how to get a death certificate. Here are some answers to common questions about post-death matters in Idaho.

How do I get a death certificate in Idaho?

In Idaho, a death certificate must be filed with the local registrar within five days. (Idaho Code § 39-260.) Typically, the funeral home, mortuary, cremation organization, or other person in charge of the deceased person’s remains will prepare and file the death certificate after the appropriate person completes the medical certification section of the death certificate (see below).

You may need to obtain copies of a death certificate for a number of reasons. You might simply want a copy for your personal records or, if you are in charge of wrapping up the deceased person’s affairs, you may require multiple, official copies to carry out your job. You will need to submit a certified copy of the death certificate each time you claim property or benefits that belonged to the deceased person, including life insurance proceeds, Social Security benefits, payable on death accounts, veterans benefits, and many others.

The easiest way to get copies of a death certificate is to ask the person or organization that files the certificate to order them for you at the time of the death. If you are the executor of the estate, you should ask for at least ten certified copies.

If you need to order copies of a death certificate after the time of death has passed, visit the website of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. From the DHW website, you can download a mail-in order form or find a link to order death certificates online.

You must provide a photocopy of an acceptable form of identification, such as a government issued photo ID. The first certified copy of an Idaho death certificate copy $21; each additional certified copy is $16.

Who can order a death certificate in Idaho?

In Idaho, unless the death occurred more than 50 years ago, a death certificate may be issued to anyone who can show a “direct and tangible interest” in the certificate. Those who have such an interest include:

  • the deceased person’s spouse or other immediate family member
  • a legal representative of the deceased person’s spouse or immediate family member
  • a person who can show the right to inherit or claim insurance proceeds, or
  • any person who provides documentation showing the certificate is necessary to determine their property rights.

For more details, see the Idaho death certificate application form and Idaho Code § 39-270.

In Idaho, who completes the death certificate?

The certifying physician who was treating the patient for the last illness before death completes the medical certification portion of the death certificate within 72 hours from the time of death. The state has the discretion not to require a medical certification of the cause of death within 72 hours if these rules would cause an "undue hardship." However, the certifying physician or coroner must complete the medical certification within 15 days of the filing of the death certificate. (Idaho Code § 39-260.)

If the physician is not available or gives approval, the physician who performed an autopsy on the deceased person can complete this certificate if he or she has access to the person's medical history, views the deceased person after death, and the death is due to natural causes. If the death was due to a reason other than natural causes or there was not a physician present during the last illness, the case is referred to the coroner.

Is embalming required in Idaho?

Embalming is a process in which blood is drained from the body and replaced with fluids that delay disintegration. Though it is still a common procedure, embalming is rarely necessary; refrigeration serves the same purpose.

In Idaho, a body must be embalmed or refrigerated if burial or cremation will not occur within 24 hours. Embalming is also required if a body is to be transported by common carrier, such as an airplane or train.

For more information about embalming rules in Idaho, contact the Idaho Board of Morticians or read Idaho Administrative Rules 24.08.01 of the Rules of the State Board of Morticians, Rule 452.

In Idaho, is a casket necessary for burial or cremation?

A casket is often the single greatest expense incurred after a death. The cost of a casket can range from a simple $500 box to $20,000 or more for an elaborate design. Some people prefer to forgo a casket altogether.

Burial. No law requires a casket for burial. However, you should check with the cemetery; it may have rules requiring a certain type of container.

Cremation. No law requires a casket for cremation. On the contrary, federal law requires a funeral home or crematory to inform you that you may use an alternative container, and to make such containers available to you. An alternative container may be made of unfinished wood, pressed wood, fiberboard, or cardboard.

In Idaho, do I have to buy a casket from the funeral home?

No. Even though Idaho law says that only licensed funeral directors may sell caskets (Idaho Code § § 54-1102 and 54-1103) federal law requires funeral homes to accept caskets that consumers have purchased from another source, such as an online retailer. You may also build your own casket, if you prefer.

Where can bodies be buried in Idaho?

Most bodies are buried in established cemeteries, but burial on private property may be possible in Idaho. Before conducting a home burial or establishing a family cemetery, check with the county or town clerk for any local zoning laws you must follow. The person having possession of the body writes a report that serves as a permit to transport, bury, or entomb the body in the state. (Idaho Code § 39-268.)

Where can we store or scatter ashes after cremation in Idaho?

In Idaho, there are no state laws controlling where you may keep or scatter ashes. Ashes may be stored in a crypt, niche, grave, or container at home. If you wish to scatter ashes, you have many options. Cremation renders ashes harmless, so there is no public health risk involved in scattering ashes. Use common sense and refrain from scattering ashes in places where they would be obvious to others.

Scattering ashes in an established scattering garden. Many cemeteries provide gardens for scattering ashes. If you’re interested, ask the cemetery for more information.

Scattering ashes on private land. You are allowed to scatter ashes on your own private property. If you want to scatter ashes on someone else’s private land, it’s wise to get permission from the landowner.

Scattering ashes on public land. You may wish to check both city and county regulations and zoning rules before scattering ashes on local public land, such as in a city park. However, many people simply proceed as they wish, letting their best judgment be their guide.

Scattering ashes on federal land. Officially, you should request permission before scattering ashes on federal land. As with local or state land, however, you will probably encounter no resistance if you conduct the scattering ceremony quietly and keep the ashes well away from trails, roads, facilities, and waterways. You can find guidelines for scattering ashes on the websites for some national parks. For more information, begin your search at the website of the National Park Service.

Scattering ashes at sea. The federal Clean Water Act requires that cremated remains be scattered at least three nautical miles from land. If the container will not easily decompose, you must dispose of it separately. The EPA does not permit scattering at beaches or in wading pools by the sea. Finally, you must notify the EPA within 30 days of scattering ashes at sea.

The Clean Water Act also governs scattering in inland waters such as rivers or lakes. For inland water burial, you may be legally required to obtain a permit from the state agency that manages the waterway.

For more information, see Burial of Human Remains at Sea on the EPA website.

Scattering ashes by air. While there are no state laws on the matter, federal aviation laws do prohibit dropping any objects that might cause harm to people or property. The U.S. government does not consider cremains to be hazardous material; all should be well so long as you remove the ashes from their container before scattering.

Learn more.

To learn about the federal Funeral Rule, which protects consumers in all states, visit the website of the Federal Trade Commission.

For more information about funeral laws in Idaho, see Making Funeral Arrangements in Idaho.

To find out more about funerals and other final arrangements, see the Getting Your Affairs in Order section of Nolo.com.

Get It Together, by Melanie Cullen (Nolo) helps you gather and organize the essential details of your life for yourself and your family.

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