Illinois Home Funeral Laws

Learn the rules that govern home funerals in Illinois.

Illinois is one of only a handful of states that restrict home funerals by requiring the involvemnt of a licensed funeral director in many aspects of final arrangements. Here is an overview of the rules that govern home funerals in Illinois.

You Must Use a Funeral Director in Illinois

By law, a licensed funeral director must oversee the final disposition of a body in Illinois. For example, a licensed funeral director must file the death certificate, and only a licensed funeral director may be issued a permit to move the body for final disposition. (See, for example, 410 ILCS 535/18, 535/21 (2018), and Illinois Administrative Code § 500.10 (2018).)

Who Makes Decisions About Body Disposition and Funeral Arrangements?

Although a funeral director must carry out disposition arrangements, Illinois law determines who has the right to make final decisions about a person’s body and funeral services. This right goes first to a person appointed by the deceased person before death, then to the executor of the person’s will, and after that to family members in an established order.

To learn the rules and the exact order of priority, see Making Funeral Arrangements in Illinois.

Must the Body Be Embalmed?

Illinois has no embalming requirements, nor does state law specify a time frame within which you must dispose of the remains.

Getting a Death Certificate

The person in charge of filing the death certificate must do so within seven days of the death and prior to cremation or removal of the body from Illinois. (410 ILCS 535/18 (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.

Getting a Permit to Transport the Body

After filing the death certificate, the funeral director will obtain the necessary permits for transporting the body, and for burial or cremation. In Illinois, the transport permit is called a “permit for disposition.” (410 ILCS 535/21 (2018).)

Can You Bury a Body at Home?

There are no laws in Illinois that prohibit home burial. Before burying a body on private land or establishing a family cemetery, be sure to check local zoning rules.

What About Cremation?

You must arrange cremation through a funeral director, who will obtain the required permits. In Illinois, there is a required waiting period of 24 hours before cremation may occur. (410 ILCS 18/20 and 18/35 (2018).)

Illinois law permits you to place the cremated remains in a grave, crypt, or niche. If you wish to scatter the ashes, you may do so in a legally-defined “scattering area” -- such as a designated section of a cemetery or a designated section of land owned by the Department of Natural Resources -- or “in any manner whatever on the private property of a consenting owner.” (See 410 ILCS 18/5 and 18/40 (2018).)

For more information about cremation, including more information on scattering ashes, see Burial & Cremation Laws in Illinois.

Alkaline Hydrolysis in Illinois

Illinois is one of the very few states with alkaline hydrolysis facilities that are available to the public. Sometimes referred to as “flameless cremation” or "green cremation," alkaline hydrolysis uses water, an alkali solution, pressure, and heat to speed up the body’s decomposition, resulting in a small amount of liquid separated from bone fragments that resemble cremated remains.

In Illinois, the same rules that apply to flame cremation apply to alkaline hydrolysis.

For more information, see Is Alkaline Hydrolysis Legal in Illinois?

Learn More About Home Funerals

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.

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