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. (Wyoming Statutes § 35-1-418.) 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; usually this will be a funeral home, mortuary, or crematory.
If you are the executor of the estate, you should ask for at least ten certified copies. You will need to one 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 later, go to the website of the Wyoming Department of Health. From the WDH website, you can download a mail-in order form or find information for ordering death certificates by phone or online.
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 $15; each additional copy ordered at the same time costs $10.
In Wyoming, those who are permitted to order a certified copy of a death certificate include:
You might need to submit additional proof of why you need the certificate. Anyone can request a death certificate that is more than 50 years old through the Wyoming State Archives.
For more information, see the Wyoming Department of Health website.
The funeral director completes the death certificate with input from the next of kin and medical professionals. The funeral director collects personal information about the deceased person from the next of kin and also obtains the medical certification from the medical professional who has information about the person's death. The primary health care provider who was responsible for the deceased person's care for the illness or condition that resulted in death completes the medical certification within a "reasonable time after death." If the deceased person was not under medical care or the primary health care provider refuses to sign the certificate, the funeral director notifies the local registrar. Then, the local health officer must refer the case to the coroner for immediate investigation and certification of the cause of death. The coroner completes the medical certification within a reasonable time after taking charge of the case. (Wyoming Statutes § 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 serves the same purpose.
Here are the regulations governing embalming in Wyoming:
For more information, see Wyoming’s Board of Embalmers Regulations, Chapter 5.
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.
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. 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.
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.
In 2014, Wyoming opened the door to alkaline hydrolysis when it expanded the state’s Funeral Services Practitioners Act to cover “chemical disposition,” which means “the process by which a deceased human body is reduced to a powder by use of materials other than heat and evaporation.” (Wyoming Statutes § 33-16-502.)
However, though it may be technically legal, no Wyoming facility has yet made alkaline hydrolysis available for human remains. To find an alkaline hydrolysis facility 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 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. The funeral director must obtain a burial-transmit permit from the local registrar of the district where the death certificate is filed before the body can be buried. (Wyoming Statutes § 35-1-418.)
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. 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. 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 of Human Remains 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 Funeral Rule, which protects consumers in all states, visit the website of the Federal Trade Commission.
For more information about funeral laws in Wyoming, see Making Funeral Arrangements in Wyoming.
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.