Burial and Cremation Laws in Idaho

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

Updated by , Attorney University of Arkansas School of Law
Updated 7/05/2023

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. The easiest way to get copies of a death certificate is to ask this person or organization to order them for you at the time of the death.

If you're the executor of the estate (in charge of wrapping up the deceased person's affairs), you should ask for at least 10 certified copies. You'll 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.

If you need to order copies after some time 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. Each certified copy of an Idaho death certificate costs $16. Additional processing fees apply for online orders.

Who can order a death certificate in Idaho?

In Idaho, 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
  • parent
  • child
  • sibling
  • grandchild, and
  • grandparent.

It might also include an attorney, legal guardian, or government agency. When applying for the certificate, you'll also need to state the purpose. For more details, see the Idaho death certificate application form and Idaho Code § 39-270.

In Idaho, who completes the death certificate?

Usually two separate people complete the death certificate. The funeral director is in charge of filing the death certificate and filling out the personal data (obtained from next of kin). The deceased person's attending physician, physician assistant, or advanced practice registered nurse must also complete the medical certification portion of the death certificate (which states cause of death) within 72 hours from the time of death. The state has the discretion to stretch this deadline if these rules would cause an "undue hardship." However, the medical certification must be completed by 15 days after the filing of the death certificate. (Idaho Code § 39-260.)

If the death was due to a reason other than natural causes or no medical professional is able to certify the cause of death, 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 either embalmed or refrigerated if burial or cremation will not occur within 24 hours. (Idaho Admin. Rules § Embalming is also required if a body is to be transported out of state. (Idaho Code § 1120.)

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

A casket is often the single greatest expense incurred after a death. The average cost of a casket is more than $2,000, and the price can run into the $10,000-$20,000 range for more elaborate designs and expensive materials. Whether due to the cost or for other reasons, 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. Although funeral homes may sometimes be very pushy about getting you to buy caskets from them, federal law requires funeral homes to accept caskets that consumers have purchased from another source, such as an online retailer. (Learn more about your consumer rights under the FTC Funeral Rule.) You may also build your own casket, if you prefer.

Is water cremation (aquamation) available in Idaho?

Water cremation or aquamation (also known as "alkaline hydrolysis" and many other terms) is a chemical process that reduces a human body to components of liquid and bone. It is considered a greener alternative to cremation because it uses less energy and doesn't release matter into the atmosphere.

Water cremation was legalized in Idaho in 2014. (Not all states have recognized the practice yet.) The Rules of the State Board of Morticians in Idaho now mentions "alkaline hydrolysis" and requires crematories offering water cremation to provide detailed information on the vessel and documentation on sterilization.

While water cremation or aquamation is technically legal, you might be able to find only a small number of facilities offering the service in Idaho, which may mean traveling a distance to access it. The equipment is expensive and public demand is still small, though it's growing. With time, facilities offering water cremation may become more common.

If you're interested in this option for yourself, you may want to explore pre-planning your final arrangements. Water cremation tends to cost a little more than traditional cremation. (For example, see this 2023 NPR interview on water cremation in which one funeral home prices its water cremation service at $1,000 more than traditional cremation.)

Learn more about alkaline hydrolysis.

Where can bodies be buried in Idaho?

Most bodies are buried in established cemeteries, but burial on private property is possible in Idaho. (See the Idaho state FAQ on death.) 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.

Just as a funeral director would, the person having possession of the body must make a written report to the registrar. This report serves as a permit to transport, bury, or entomb the body within 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. Generally, 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 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.

More Resources

To learn about the federal rule on funerals, which protects consumers in all states, visit the FTC's Funeral Rule page.

For more information about funeral laws in Idaho, see Idaho Home Funeral Laws.

To find out more about funerals and other final arrangements, see Nolo's section on Getting Your Affairs in Order.

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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