Nebraska Home Funeral Laws

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

Nebraska 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 Nebraska.

You Must Use a Funeral Director in Nebraska

By law, a licensed funeral director must oversee the final disposition of a body in Nebraska. For example, “the funeral director and embalmer in charge of the funeral of any person dying in the State of Nebraska” must complete and file the death certificate. (See Nebraska Statutes § 71-605 (2019).)

Who Makes Decisions About Body Disposition and Funeral Arrangements?

Although a funeral director must carry out disposition arrangements, Nebraska 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 appointed in a written, notarized document
  • your surviving spouse
  • your adult children
  • your parents
  • your siblings
  • your grandparents
  • your next of kin
  • your personal guardian
  • the personal representative of your estate, or
  • a state or county official.

(Nebraska Statutes § 30-2223 (2019).)

Making your own document. To make a valid document appointing someone to carry out your funeral arrangements, you need only write down what you want, then date and sign your document in front of a notary public. (Nebraska Statutes § 38-1425(1) (2019).)

Making a durable power of attorney for health care. One of the smartest ways to name your representative is to make a Nebraska durable power of attorney for health care, giving your attorney-in-fact the power to carry out your final arrangements and leaving any additional instructions about your wishes. This saves the trouble of making separate documents for health care decisions and final arrangements.

For information about making a power of attorney, see Living Wills & Medical Powers of Attorney.

To make a Nebraska durable power of attorney for health care that appoints your attorney-in-fact to carry out your final plans, you can use Nolo’s Quicken WillMaker & Trust software.

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?

Embalming is almost never required. In Nebraska, a body must be embalmed only if:

  • the person died of any communicable disease listed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), unless the person is placed in a hermetically sealed container immediately after death
  • final disposition will not occur within 24 hours following death, unless the body is refrigerated, which is allowed for no more than 96 hours, or
  • the body will be transported by common carrier, such as an airplane or train.

(Nebraska Administrative Code, Title 172, Chapter 68 § 008 (2018).)

Getting a Death Certificate in Nebraska

The person in charge of filing the death certificate must do so within five days of the death. (Nebraska Statutes § 71-605 (2019).)

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.

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 Nebraska, the permit is called a “transit permit.” (See Nebraska Statutes § 71-605 (2019)).

Can You Bury a Body at Home?

Burial on private property in Nebraska may be possible. In Nebraska, all burials must be supervised by a licensed funeral director, so make sure you find a funeral director who is willing to help with your burial plans.

If you wish to arrange for a home burial, check with the county or town clerk for any zoning laws or other ordinances you must follow. If you’re establishing a family cemetery, you’ll need to record it with the county clerk. The land will then be exempt from taxation. (Nebraska Statutes § 12-520 (2019).)

What About Cremation?

You must arrange cremation through a funeral director, who will obtain the required permits. (See Nebraska Statutes § 71-605 (2018) and Nebraska Administrative Code, Title 172, Chapter 69 § 007 (2018).) There are no laws in Nebraska restricting the disposition of ashes.

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

Learn More About Home Funerals

To learn 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.

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