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.
In all states, it is legal to have your loved one’s body at home after they die. Ohio does not require you to involve a licensed funeral director in making or carrying out final arrangements. (See, for example, Ohio Code § 3705.16 (2018), which permits “the funeral director or other person in charge of the final disposition of the remains” to file the death certificate.)
Ohio law determines who has the right to make final decisions about a person’s body and funeral services. This right goes first to any person named by the deceased person in writing 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 Ohio.
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 Code § 3707.19 (2018).)
If that is the case, Ohio law also states that:
(Ohio Code § 3707.19 (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. 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 Code § 3705.16 (2018).)
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.
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 Code § 3705.17 (2018).)
There are no state laws in Ohio that prohibit home burial, but local governments may have rules governing private burials. Before burying a body on private land or establishing a family cemetery, check with the town or county clerk to see if there are any zoning rules you must follow.
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. (Ohio Code § 3705.17 (2018).) 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 Code § 4717.23 (2018).)
For more information about cremation, including information on scattering ashes, see Burial and Cremation Laws in Ohio.
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.