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 Kansas.
In all states, it is legal to have your loved one’s body at home after they die. Kansas does not require you to involve a licensed funeral director in making or carrying out final arrangements, unless the death was from a “contagious, infectious or communicable disease.” (See Kansas Statutes § 65-1713b (2018).)
Kansas law determines who has the right to make final decisions about a person’s body and funeral services. This right goes first to any health care agent named by the deceased person before death, 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 Kansas.
Kansas requires embalming under specific circumstances, such as when:
In all other cases, a body must be refrigerated or embalmed only if disposition does not occur within 24 hours after death. However, Kansas regulations permit “a reasonable time beyond 24 hours” if there is a religious objection to transporting or disposing of a body on certain days and the delay will not result in a health hazard. (See Kansas Administrative Regulations § 63-3-11 (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 you will not be using a funeral director to carry out final arrangements, you must complete and file the death certificate yourself. Kansas law requires you to file the death certificate with the state registrar within three days of the death and before final disposition. (Kansas Statutes § 65-2412 (2018).)
The doctor who last attended to the deceased person or the coroner must complete the medical portion of the death certificate before disposition of the remains. (Kansas Statutes § 65-2412 (2018).) The medical certification contains such information as the date, time, and cause of death.
Kansas has begun using an electronic death registration system, but you can still use a paper death certificate. You must obtain a blank death certificate from the state Office of Vital Statistics, fill in the section for personal data, and take it to the deceased person’s doctor or the coroner to complete and sign.
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.
In Kansas, a body can be moved after a medical provider or coroner has signed the death certificate and it has been filed with the state registrar. (See Kansas Administrative Regulations § 63-3-11 (2018).) If you wish to transport the body to a destination outside of the state for final disposition -- either by private vehicle or common carrier -- a funeral director or the state registrar must issue a transit permit. (Kansas Statutes § 65-2428a (2018).)
There are no state laws in Kansas prohibiting home burial, but you should check local zoning rules before burying a body on private land or establishing a family cemetery. You can most likely hold a home burial if you live in a rural area.
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. The local coroner must issue a permit before cremation, but there are no laws restricting the disposition of the ashes. (Kansas Statutes § 65-2426a (2018).)
For more information about cremation, including information on scattering ashes, see Burial and Cremation Laws in Kansas.
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.