Connecticut is one of only a handful of states that restrict home funerals by requiring the involvement of a licensed funeral director in many aspects of final arrangements. Here is an overview of the rules that govern home funerals in Connecticut.
By law, a licensed funeral director must oversee the final disposition of a body in Connecticut. For example, a licensed funeral director or embalmer “in charge of the burial” must complete the death certificate, and only a licensed embalmer or funeral director may transport the body. (Connecticut General Statutes §§ 7-62b and 7-69 (2018).)
Though a funeral director must carry out disposition arrangements, Connecticut law is fairly flexible when it comes to designating the person who decides what those arrangements will be. This right and responsibility goes to the following people, in order:
(Connecticut Statutes § 45a-318(d) (2018).)
If there is more than one person in a class named above -- for example, you have more than one child or many siblings -- decisions will be made by a majority of the members of that class who can be located and who want to participate within ten days after your death. (Connecticut Statutes § 45a-318(e) (2018).)
Making your own document. To make a valid document appointing someone to carry out your final wishes, you need only write down what you want, then sign and date your document in front of two witnesses. (Connecticut Statutes § 45a-318(a) and (g).)
Making an advance directive. One smart way to name your representative is to complete a Connecticut advance health care directive naming a health care representative. In your document, you can give your health care representative explicit power to carry out your final arrangements. (You must make this authority clear in your advance directive; otherwise your agent’s decision-making power ends upon your death.) This saves the trouble of making separate documents for health care decisions and final wishes.
For more information about making an advance directive in Connecticut, see Living Wills & Medical Powers of Attorney.
Note that, if you are in the military, you may name the person who will carry out your final wishes in the Record of Emergency Data provided by the Department of Defense.
Who pays for your funeral arrangements? You can either pay for your plans before you die, or you can set aside money for your survivors to use for this purpose. If you don’t do either of these things, and there’s not enough money in your estate to pay for funeral goods and services, your survivors must cover the costs.
Embalming is almost never required. In Connecticut, a licensed embalmer must handle disposition only if the person died of a contagious disease. (Connecticut General Statutes § 7-62b (2018).)
The person in charge of filing the death certificate must do so within five days of the death -- or three days if using an electronic registry. (Connecticut General Statutes § 7-62b (2018).) The death certificate must be filed before handling the final disposition of the body. (Connecticut General Statutes § 7-64 (2018).)
You will need certified copies of the death certificate to carry out other tasks after the death, such as transferring the deceased person’s property to inheritors. The funeral director who files the death certificate should be able to order copies for you.
After filing the death certificate, the funeral director will obtain the necessary permits for transporting the body, and for burial or cremation. In Connecticut, the transport permit is called a “removal, transit and burial permit.”
There are no laws in Connecticut that prohibit home burial by a licensed funeral director. The funeral director must obtain a burial permit from the registrar of the town in which the body will be buried, and the permit must state the location of the grave. (Connecticut General Statutes § 7-65 (2018).)
Check with local zoning authorities before you proceed with home burial. See the article, Connecticut Widow Fights to Keep Husband's Remains Buried in Yard for an example of how home burials can run afoul of local zoning boards. In that case, Connecticut’s high court directed the widow back to the zoning authority to determine whether her husband’s body could be buried at home.
You must arrange cremation through a licensed funeral director, who will obtain the required permits. The permit must state where you intend to store or scatter the remains. Usually, there is a required waiting period of 48 hours before cremation may occur. (Connecticut General Statutes § 19a-323 (2018).)
For more information about cremation, including information on storing or scattering ashes, see Burial & Cremation Laws in Connecticut.
You can find out more about home funerals by visiting the National Home Funeral Alliance website. The book Final Rights, by Joshua Slocum and Lisa Carlson, also offers extensive information on the subject.
For more information about final arrangements and documenting your final wishes in advance, see Nolo’s section on Getting Your Affairs in Order.