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 Wyoming.
In Wyoming, a death certificate must be filed with the local registrar within three days of the death and before the body is removed from the state. (Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 35-1-418.) 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 Wyoming Department of Health, which offers options for ordering death certificates online or by mail.
When you order the certificates, you must provide a copy of a government-issued photo ID or sign your form in front of a notary public. The first copy of a Wyoming death certificate costs $25; each additional copy ordered at the same time costs $20. Extra fees apply for online orders.
In Wyoming, those who are permitted to order an official death certificate (meaning a certified copy) include:
Some of these people will be required to provide documentation proving their relationship to the deceased person or their purpose. For more information, see the Wyoming Department of Health death certificate application page.
Two separate people need to complete the death certificate. The funeral director collects personal information about the deceased person from the next of kin and fills in the personal data on the death certificate. The funeral director must then have a medical professional fill out the medical certification portion (stating the cause of death) within a "reasonable time after death." This medical professional is typically the primary health care provider who was responsible for the deceased person's care for the illness or condition that resulted in death. (Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 35-1-418.)
Embalming is a process in which blood is drained from the body and replaced with fluids that delay disintegration. Embalming is rarely necessary because refrigeration usually serves the same purpose.
In Wyoming, if a body won't be cremated or buried within 36 hours of death, you must choose to either embalm or refrigerate the body—but you will almost always have a choice. (Wy. Admin. Code § 035.0001.4-5.) The exception is that if the death was due to a communicable disease, the body must be embalmed and disinfected before it can be transported. (Wy. Admin. Code § 035.0001.4-5.)
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 many cemeteries 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.
In 2014, Wyoming opened the door to alkaline hydrolysis when it amended its cremation statutes to include "chemical disposition." Wisconsin included this definition:
"Chemical disposition" means the process by which a deceased human body is reduced to a powder by use of materials other than heat and evaporation.
However, though it is recognized by law, no Wyoming facility has yet made water cremation available for human remains. The equipment is expensive and public demand is still small, though it's growing. To find a water cremation facility now, you'll have to look to a nearby state with established facilities, such as Colorado. (See this section on water cremation in Colorado.)
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 Wyoming. 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.
Anyone taking charge of burying a body must obtain a burial-transmit permit from the local registrar before the body can be buried. (Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 35-1-418.) Wyoming's administrative code also prohibits burying or cremating a body before 24 hours have passed since the death, unless you've obtained permission from the county coroner. (Wyo. Admin Code § 35.0004.4-5.)
In Wyoming, 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. However, you will probably encounter no resistance if you conduct the scattering ceremony quietly and keep the ashes well away from trails, roads, facilities, campsites, developed areas, and waterways. You can find guidelines for scattering ashes on the websites for some national parks. For example, rules are available for Grand Teton and Yellowstone.
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 law prohibits 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 Wyoming, see Wyoming 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.