If you are interested in holding a home funeral for a loved one who has died, you'll need to be aware of the laws that apply. Here is an overview of the rules that govern home funerals in Idaho.
In all states, it is legal to have your loved one's body at home after they die. Idaho does not require you to involve a licensed funeral director in making or carrying out final arrangements. (See, for example, Idaho Code § 39-260 (2018), which permits the "person in charge of interment or of removal of the body from the district" to obtain and file the death certificate.)
Idaho law determines who has the right to make final decisions about a person's body and funeral services. This right and responsibility goes to the following people, in order:
(Idaho Statutes § 54-1142 (2018).)
Making your own document. To make a valid document appointing someone to carry out your funeral arrangements, you need only write down what you want, then date and sign your document in front of a notary public. (Idaho Statutes § 54-1142(a).)
Making a durable power of attorney for health care. The smartest way to name your representative is to make a durable power of attorney for health care, giving your health care agent the power to carry out your final arrangements and leaving any additional instructions about your wishes. This saves the trouble of making separate documents for health care decisions and final arrangements.
For information about making a health care power of attorney, 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.
Idaho has no embalming requirements for families holding home funerals, unless you plan to use public transit to transport the body for final disposition. If that's the case, you must have the body embalmed and obtain a permit for final disposition from the person who signed the death certificate. (See Idaho Code § 54-1120 (2018).)
Refrigeration or dry ice can usually preserve a body for a short time. There are resources available to help you learn to prepare a body at home for burial or cremation. The website of the National Home Funeral Alliance is a good place to start.
If the person died of a contagious disease, you should consult a doctor.
If you will not be using a funeral director to carry out final arrangements, you must complete and file the death certificate yourself. Idaho law requires you to file the death certificate with the local registrar within five days of the death. (Idaho Code § 39-260 (2018).)
The deceased person's doctor, physician's assistant, or advanced practice registered nurse must complete the medical portion of the death certificate within 72 hours. (Idaho Code § 39-260 (2018).) The medical certification contains such information as the date, time, and cause of death.
Idaho now uses an electronic death registration system, but you can still use a paper death certificate. You must go to the local health department and obtain the death certificate, fill in the section for personal data, and take it to the deceased person's doctor, physician's assistant, or advanced practice registered nurse to complete and sign. If you want more information on how to complete a death certificate in Idaho, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare offers a detailed instruction manual.
You must also obtain and file a report of death form with the local registrar within 24 hours of taking possession of the body. This form certifies that you have contacted the doctor, physician's assistant, or advanced practice nurse who attended to the deceased person at the time of death and that he or she will sign the death certificate. (Idaho Code § 39-268 (2018).)
You will need certified copies of the death certificate to carry out other tasks after the death, such as arranging for the disposition of the body and transferring the deceased person's property to inheritors. You may be able to file the death certificate and get certified copies the same day. If not, you will have to make a return trip to pick up the copies. Be prepared to pay a small fee for each copy.
If you wish to carry out final arrangements in Idaho, the report of death form described above also serves as a permit to transport, bury, or entomb the body. (Idaho Code § 39-268 (2018).) You can find an example of the form on the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare website.
However, if you plan to remove the body from the state for final disposition, you must obtain additional authorization from the doctor, physician's assistant, or advanced practice registered nurse who signed the death certificate. (Idaho Code § 39-268 (2018).)
There are no state laws in Idaho prohibiting home burial, but local governments may have rules governing private burials. Before burying a body on private land or establishing a family cemetery, check with the town or county clerk to see if there are any zoning laws you must follow.
Some crematories require that you use a funeral director to arrange cremation. If you don't want to use a funeral director, make sure the crematory is willing to accept the body directly from the family. In Idaho, the coroner must grant permission before a body can be cremated. (Idaho Code § 39-268 (2018).)
For more information about cremation, including information on scattering ashes, see Burial & Cremation Laws in Idaho.
Even the most staunch home funeral advocates know that learning to care for one's own dead can be difficult, especially during a time of grief. If you need help, there are people available to coach you through the process. You can find local guides, consultants, and other resources 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.