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 Kansas.
In Kansas, a death certificate must be filed with the state registrar within three days and before final disposition of the body. (Kansas Statutes § 65-2412.) 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.
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, go to the website of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. From the KDHE website, you can download a mail-in order form or find information for ordering death certificates in person, over the phone, or online.
In Kansas, you must provide a copy of your government issued photo ID or other acceptable identification at the time you order a certified copy of the death certificate. Each copy of a Kansas death certificate costs $15.
In Kansas, you can obtain a certified copy of a death certificate if you are one of the following:
The funeral director completes the death certificate with input from the next of kin and medical professionals. The funeral director obtains the personal information about the deceased person fro the next of kin and the medical certification of the cause of death from the physician who was last in attendance before the death. If the death occurred without medical attendance or was not due to natural causes, the coroner investigates the cause of death and signs and completes the medical certification within 24 hours of receiving the death certificate. (Kansas Statutes § 65-2412.)
Embalming is a process in which blood is drained from the body and replaced with fluids that delay disintegration. It is rarely necessary; refrigeration is simpler and serves the same purpose. Kansas regulations require a body to be embalmed or refrigerated if final disposition does not occur within 24 hours. (Kansas Administrative Regulations § 63-3-11.)
In addition, embalming is legally required in Kansas when:
A casket is often the single greatest expense incurred after a death. The cost of a casket can range from a few hundred dollars for a simple 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, but the cemetery may require 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.
No. 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.
Alkaline hydrolysis 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.
Kansas legalized alkaline hydrolysis in 2011, when the state broadened its definition of cremation to include methods other than "direct exposure to intense heat and flame." That definition now reads:
"Cremation" means the mechanical and/or other dissolution process that reduces human remains to bone fragments. Cremation includes the processing and usually includes the pulverization of the bone fragments.
While there is evidence that some Kansas funeral service providers are researching the possibility of offering alkaline hydrolysis -- most commonly called "bio-cremation" in the state -- no Kansas facility has yet made the process available for human remains. To find an alkaline hydrolysis provider for a human body, you'll have to look to one of the few states where the process is both legal and available to the public, such as Florida, Illinois, Maine, or Minnesota.
Most bodies are buried in established cemeteries, but burial on private property may be possible in Kansas. 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. If you bury a body on private land, you should draw a map of the property showing the burial ground and file it with the property deed so the location will be clear to others in the future.
In Kansas, there are no state laws controlling where you may keep or scatter ashes. However, you must obtain a coroner's permit to cremate before cremating a body in Kansas. (Kansas Statutes § 65-2426(a).) You may store ashes in a crypt, niche, grave, or container at home. If you wish to scatter them, 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. 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. Some national park websites contain guidelines for scattering ashes. 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.
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 Kansas, see Making Funeral Arrangements in Kansas.
To find out more about funerals and other final arrangements, see the Getting Your Affairs in Order section of Nolo.com.