Louisiana 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 Louisiana.
By law, a licensed funeral director must oversee the final disposition of a body in Louisiana. State law requires that all human remains be “disposed of and prepared through a funeral establishment and under the supervision of a licensed funeral home or embalmer.” (See Louisiana Revised Statutes § 37:848 (2018).)
Although a funeral director must carry out disposition arrangements, Louisiana 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:
How to name your representative. To make a declaration appointing someone to carry out your final wishes, you need only write down what you want, then sign the document in front of a notary public. (Louisiana Revised Statutes § 37:876(A).) Louisiana law also allows you to make this appointment in a "notarial testament," which is a type of Louisiana will. However, we don't recommend leaving these types of instructions in your will, for the simple reason that your will may not be located or read until after the time your wishes should be carried out.
For more information about making an advance directive in Louisiana, 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 Louisiana, a body must be embalmed or refrigerated only if disposition does not occur within 30 hours after death. (Louisiana Revised Statutes § 37:848 (2018).)
You will need certified copies of the death certificate to carry out certain 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 Louisiana, the transport permit is called a “burial transit permit.” (Louisiana Revised Statutes § 40:52 (2018).)
In Louisiana, bodies must be buried in established cemeteries. (Louisiana Revised Statutes § 8:652 (2018).) If you want to bury a body on private land and you live in a rural area, you may be able to establish a family cemetery. You should check with the county or town clerk for any zoning laws or other ordinances you must follow, and then contact the Louisiana Cemetery Board for more information on creating a new cemetery.
You must arrange cremation through a funeral director, who will obtain the required permits. (Louisiana Revised Statutes § 37:877 (2018).) There are no laws in Louisiana restricting disposition of the ashes.
For more information about cremation, including information on scattering ashes, see Burial and Cremation Laws in Louisiana.
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.