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 Minnesota.
In Minnesota, a death must be registered with the state registrar of vital statistics within five days after the death and before the body is buried or cremated. (Minnesota Statutes § 144.221.) Typically, the funeral home, mortuary or crematory will prepare and file the death certificate. The easiest way to get copies of a death certificate is to ask the person or organization that files the certificate (such as the funeral home) 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 t, visit the website of time has passed, visit the Minnesota Department of Health's page on death certificates. From there, you'll find instructions for ordering death certificates by mail or fax from any Minnesota county vital records office.
You must provide a copy of a valid ID at the time you order the death certificate. Each certified copy of a Minnesota death certificate costs $13.
In Minnesota, the people or agencies who may order a certified copy of a death certificate include:
For the complete list, see Minnesota Statutes § 144.225 and the Minnesota Death Certificate Application.
The funeral director completes the personal information on the death certificate, with input from the deceased person's next of kin. Medical professionals complete the medical portions of the death certificate, including the cause of death. Only the following medical professionals can provide the cause of death information:
Minnesota Statutes § 4601.1800.
Embalming is a process in which blood is drained from the body and replaced with fluids that delay disintegration. Though it's still a common procedure, embalming is rarely necessary; refrigeration serves the same purpose.
Minnesota requires that a body be embalmed, refrigerated, or packed in dry ice in the following circumstances:
Additionally, a body may not be kept in refrigeration for more than six days—or packed in dry ice for more than four days—from the time the body is released from the place of death or from the coroner.
(Minnesota Statutes § 149A.91.)
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.
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 (also known as "water cremation," "flameless cremation," or "aquamation") is a chemical process that reduces a body to components of liquid and bone. It is considered a greener alternative to cremation because it uses less energy than cremation and does not release matter into the atmosphere.
Alkaline hydrolysis has been legal in Minnesota since 2003, when licensing regulations and requirements were applied to the process. Minnesota law defines alkaline hydrolysis as:
the reduction of a dead human body to essential elements through a water-based dissolution process using alkaline chemicals, heat, agitation, and pressure to accelerate natural decomposition; the processing of the hydrolyzed remains after removal from the alkaline hydrolysis vessel; placement of the processed remains in a hydrolyzed remains container; and release of the hydrolyzed remains to an appropriate party.
(Minnesota Statutes § 149A.02.) The law also states that alkaline hydrolysis is considered a form of final disposition.
Learn more about alkaline hydrolysis.
Most bodies are buried in established cemeteries, but burial on private property is possible in Minnesota. If you want to establish a private cemetery, you must have the land surveyed and the plat recorded with the deed. The cemetery land will be exempt from taxation. (Minnesota Statutes §§ 307.01 and following.) Before proceeding with burial on private land, check with the county or town clerk for any zoning laws that may apply.
For more information, see the Minnesota Department of Health's publication on the regulations and requirements of final disposition of a dead human body.
In Minnesota, 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, developed areas, campsites, 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, including contact information for the EPA representative in Minnesota, see the EPA's page on Burial at Sea.
Scattering ashes by air. There are no state laws on the matter, but federal aviation law prohibits dropping objects that might injure people or damage 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 Minnesota, see Minnesota 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.