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 Nevada.
In Nevada, a death certificate must be filed with the local registrar within 72 hours after the date or discovery of the death. (Nevada Revised Statutes § 440.490.) 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, visit the website of the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services. From the DHHS website, you can download a mail-in order form or find a link to order death certificates online.
When ordering death certificates, you must provide a photocopy of an acceptable form of identification, such as a government issued photo ID. Each certified copy of a Nevada death certificate costs $20.
In Nevada, only "qualified applicants" can obtain a copy of a death certificate. Qualified applicants must show that they have a direct and tangible interest in the record; they may include:
The funeral director completes the death certificate with input from the next of kin and medical professionals. The attending physician who was last in attendance on the deceased person specifies the following information on the death certificate:
If the death occurred without medical attendance, the funeral director notifies the local health officer, coroner, or coroner's deputy of the death and refers it for investigation and the medical certification. The local health officer completes the medical certification when there is not a qualified physician in attendance. If the death was not due to unlawful or suspicious means, the local health officer refers the case to the coroner and medical certification. (Nevada Revised Statutes §§ 440.380 and 440.420.)
Embalming is a process in which blood is drained from the body and replaced with fluids that delay disintegration. It is rarely necessary; refrigeration serves the same purpose.
Embalming regulations are more severe in Nevada than in most other states. The Nevada Board of Health requires a body to be embalmed:
If embalming is not required by the Board of Health, a funeral home or other place in charge of disposition may not require embalming until at least 72 hours have passed, and then only if there is no known objection by family or any other person authorized to direct final disposition of the body. (Nevada Revised Statutes § 451.065.)
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 tell you that you may use another kind of 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 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 was legalized in Nevada in May 2017 when Assembly Bill 205 was passed by state lawmakers. The bill defines alkaline hydrolysis as:
1. Reduction of human remains to bone fragments through a water-based process of dissolution using alkaline chemicals and agitation to accelerate natural decomposition; and
2. Processing of the hydrolyzed human remains after their removal from the container in which the process of dissolution occurs.
Alkaline hydrolysis facilities must obtain a license from the Nevada Funeral and Cemetery Services Board.
Kraft & Sussman Funeral & Cremation Services in Las Vegas was the first funeral home to offer alkaline hydrolysis in Nevada and helped write the bill that changed the law to allow this process in the state. The funeral home refers to the process as "aquamation." Aquamation in Nevada costs about 20 percent more than traditional cremation.
Before burying a body, the funeral director must obtain a burial permit. (Nevada Revised Statutes § 440.500.) Most bodies are buried in cemeteries, but burial on private property is possible in Nevada. Nevada law states that, if the county commissioners consent, family cemeteries may be established in counties with populations of fewer than 50,000 people. If you are considering a home burial, find out whether your county has passed an ordinance allowing family cemeteries. If it has, you must notify the Health Division of the Department of Health and Human Services of the location of the family cemetery before conducting the first burial there. (See Nevada Revised Statutes § 451.067.)
In Nevada, 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 prohibit dropping anything that could harm 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 Nevada, see Making Funeral Arrangements in Nevada.
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.