Ohio Home Funeral Laws

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

Updated by , Attorney · George Mason University Law School

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 Ohio.

Do You Need a Funeral Director in Ohio?

In all states, it is legal to have your loved one's body at home after they die. Ohio doesn't require you to involve a licensed funeral director in making or carrying out final arrangements. (See, for example, Ohio Rev. Code § 3705.16 (2024), which permits "the funeral director or other person in charge of the final disposition of the remains" to file the death certificate.)

Who Has the Right to Make Funeral Arrangements in Ohio?

Ohio 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 appoint in a written document that meets the requirements of Ohio law
  • your surviving spouse
  • your only child or, if you have more than one, all of them collectively
  • your parent or parents
  • your only sibling or, if you have more than one, all of them collectively
  • your grandparent or grandparents
  • your only grandchild or, if you have more than one, all of them collectively
  • your next of kin
  • your personal guardian, if you had one at the time of your death
  • any other person willing to assume the right, including the personal representative or your estate or the funeral director with custody of your body, or
  • a state official.

(Ohio Rev. Code § 2108.81 (2024).)

Appointing your decision maker. To name someone to carry out your final wishes, you must use a document that includes specific information required by the state of Ohio. For a free downloadable form that meets state requirements, see the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Central Ohio. (Ohio Rev. Code § 2108.72 (2024).)

You must date and sign your form in front of a notary public or two adult witnesses who aren't related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption. (Ohio Rev. Code § 2108.73 (2024).)

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?

Ohio has no embalming requirements, but the health department can require the body of a person who died of a communicable disease to be buried or cremated within 24 hours after death. (Ohio Rev. Code § 3707.19 (2024).)

If the health department requires cremation or burial because of a communicable disease, Ohio law also states that:

  • a "public or church funeral" can't be held with the body present
  • the body can't be taken into a church or any other public place, and
  • only "adult members of the immediate family and other such persons as are actually necessary" can be present at burial or cremation.

(Ohio Rev. Code § 3707.19 (2024).)

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.

Getting a Death Certificate in Ohio

If you won't be using a funeral director to carry out final arrangements, you must complete and file the death certificate yourself. Ohio law requires you to present the death certificate to the deceased person's doctor, the coroner, or the medical examiner, who will then supply such information as date, time, and cause of death. The medical provider will then return it to you within 48 hours for completion and filing. (Ohio Rev. Code § 3705.16 (2024).)

Ohio now uses an electronic death registration system, but you can still file the death certificate yourself. You can obtain a death certificate worksheet and guidance from the Ohio Bureau of Vital Statistics by calling 614-466-2531. Once the completed worksheet has been submitted to the state office of vital statistics, the local registrar will generate an official death certificate.

You will need certified copies of the death certificate to carry out certain 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.

Getting a Permit to Transport the Body

After the official death certificate has been generated, the local registrar or sub-registrar will issue a burial permit that allows you to move the body for purposes of burial or cremation. (Ohio Rev. Code § 3705.17 (2024).)

Can You Bury a Body at Home?

There are no state laws in Ohio that prohibit home burial, and state law allows family cemeteries. But many local governments have rules governing private burials.

You might be able to establish a family cemetery at home. The state requires all cemeteries—except family cemeteries—to be registered with the state division of real estate. A family cemetery is a cemetery "containing the human remains of persons, at least three-fourths of whom have a common ancestor or who are the spouse or adopted child of that common ancestor." (Ohio Rev. Code § 4767.02 (2024).)

Before burying a body on private land or establishing a family cemetery, check with your local zoning authority or the city or county clerk to see if there are any zoning rules or local ordinances you must follow. Ohio law specifically allows municipal corporations (cities and villages) to regulate burials. (Ohio Rev. Code § 759.05 (2024).)

What About Cremation?

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. In Ohio, the burial permit also authorizes cremation—no additional permit is necessary. There is, however, a required waiting period of 24 hours before cremation may occur, unless it is waived by the board of health due to communicable disease. (Ohio Rev. Code §§ 3705.17; 4717.23 (2024).)

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

Getting Help With Home Funerals

Even the staunchest 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.

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