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. (Kan. Stat. § 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. 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 of a death certificate after some time has passed, visit the website of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. From there, you'll find options for ordering death certificates online, by mail, over the phone, and in person.
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 $20. Additional processing fees might apply, depending on the method of ordering.
In Kansas, you can obtain a certified copy of a death certificate if you have a "direct interest." Those with a direct interest in the death certificate include:
The funeral director completes the death certificate by obtaining personal information about the deceased person from the next of kin and getting the medical certification of the cause of death from the physician who last attended the deceased person 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. If burial or cremation won't occur within 24 hours (or longer, if no health hazard or nuisance will occur from the delay), Kansas regulations require a body to be either embalmed or refrigerated. (K.A.R. § 63-3-11.)
However, embalming (without the choice of refrigeration) is required in Kansas when:
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, 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. 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.
Alkaline hydrolysis (more informally called "water cremation," "flameless cremation," "aquamation," and many other terms) is a chemical process that reduces a body to components of liquid and bone. It's considered a greener alternative to cremation because it uses less energy than cremation and does not release matter into the atmosphere.
Kansas acknowledged 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 water cremation or aquamation is acknowledged by Kansas law, you might be able to find only a small number of facilities offering the service. The equipment is expensive and public demand is still small, though it's growing. With time, facilities offering water cremation are likely to become more commonplace.
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.)
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. 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. However, you will probably encounter no resistance if you conduct the scattering ceremony quietly and keep the ashes well away from trails, roads, facilities, developed areas, campsites, 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, including contact information for the EPA representative in Kansas, see the EPA's page on Burial at Sea.
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 rule on funerals, which protects consumers in all states, visit the FTC's Funeral Rule page.
For more information about funeral laws in Kansas, see Kansas 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.