Michigan 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 Michigan.
By law, a licensed funeral director must oversee the final disposition of a body in Michigan. State law says that the “handling, disposition, or disinterment of a body shall be under the supervision of a person licensed to practice mortuary science in the state.” (Michigan Compiled Laws § 700.3206 (2020).)
Although a funeral director must carry out disposition arrangements, the right to make final decisions about a person’s body and funeral services usually goes to a relative of the deceased person. This right and responsibility goes to the following people, in order:
(Michigan Compiled Laws § 700.3206 (2020).)
If there is more than one member of a class described above -- for example, if you have several children or many siblings -- decisions must be made by a majority of them. If they cannot agree, they will have to go to court to resolve their dispute. (Michigan Compiled Laws § 700.3206(5).)
Making a funeral representative declaration. To make a valid form to appoint someone to carry out your final wishes, you must write down what you want, then sign and date your document. You must have your document acknowledged by a notary public or witnessed by two witnesses. You can also name your funeral representative in your will or your patient advocate designation (medical power of attorney).
Making a patient advocate designation. It's a good choice to name your funeral representative in a medical durable power of attorney, called a "patient advocate designation" in Michigan. In your document, you can give your health care agent explicit power to carry out your final arrangements. (You must make this authority clear in your power of attorney document; otherwise your agent’s decision-making power ends upon your death.) This saves the trouble of making separate documents for health care decisions and final wishes.
For more information about making an advance directive in Michigan, 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.
Michigan requires embalming under specific circumstances, such as when:
For more information, see the pamphlet published by the Michigan Funeral Consumers Information Society, called Michigan-Specific Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Information Pertaining to After Death Care and Disposition.
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 Michigan, the transport permit is called a “permit for disposition.” (Michigan Compiled Laws § 333.2848 (2018).)
Michigan law permits the establishment of private burial grounds of less than one acre in size outside city or village limits. (Michigan Compiled Laws § 128.111 (2018).) The property must be surveyed and recorded in the county register’s office; the land will then be exempt from taxation. (Michigan Compiled Laws § 128.112 (2018).)
Before conducting a home burial or creating a family cemetery, you will need a permit from the local health department and zoning approval.
You must arrange cremation through a funeral director, who will obtain the required permit from the medical examiner. (Michigan Compiled Laws § 333.2848 (2018).)
For more information about cremation, including information on scattering ashes, see Burial and Cremation Laws in Michigan.
To find out more about home funerals, visit 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.