Illinois Home Funeral Laws

Find out what you need to know before having a funeral in Illinois.

Illinois 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 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 issue 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 and responsibility goes to the following people, in order:

  • a person you name in your will, prepaid funeral or burial contract, health care power of attorney, cremation authorization form, or other form that satisfies the requirements of Illinois law (755 ILCS 65/40)
  • the executor or legal representative of your estate
  • your surviving spouse
  • your adult child, or a majority of your children if you have more than one
  • your parents
  • your next of kin
  • any recognized religious, civil, community, or fraternal organization willing to take on the legal and financial responsibility
  • a designated public official, or
  • any person willing to take on the legal and financial responsibility.

(755 ILCS 65/5.)

You can give the job of making your final arrangements to a person who is not on the list, but you must do so in writing. (755 ILCS 65/40.) To avoid confusion, it’s best to make an advance directive and give your health care agent explicit permission to carry out your wishes.

For more information about making an advance directive in Illinois, 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.

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 in Illinois

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 Burial & Cremation Laws 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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