Texas Home Funeral Laws

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

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 Texas.

Do You Need a Funeral Director in Texas?

In all states, it is legal to have your loved one's body at home after they die. Texas doesn't require you to involve a licensed funeral director in making or carrying out final arrangements. (See, for example, Tex. Health & Safety Code § 193.002 (2024), which requires the "person in charge of interment or in charge of removal of a body from a registration district" to file the death certificate.)

Texas regulations require anyone who assumes custody of a body to file a "report of death" form with the local registrar of vital statistics within 24 hours of taking custody of the body. (25 Tex. Admin. Code § 181.2 (2024).)

For more information on reporting deaths and death certificates, you can review the Death Registration Handbook. You also can obtain a blank report of death form (Form VS-115) from the website of the Texas Vital Statistics Unit.

Who Has the Right to Make Funeral Arrangements in Texas?

Texas 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:

  • an agent you name in a written document before your death
  • your surviving spouse
  • any one of your adult children
  • either one of your parents
  • any one of your adult siblings
  • one or more of the executors or administrators of your estate, or
  • any adult next of kin in the order named by law to inherit your estate.

(Tex. Health & Safety Code § 711.002 (2024).)

How to appoint an agent. To name someone to carry out your final arrangements, you must use a form that complies with the requirements of Texas law. You must sign and date the form in front of a notary public. Before acting under the document, the representative you name must sign it, too. You can find a copy of the form at Tex. Health & Safety Code § 711.002 (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?

In Texas, a body must be embalmed, refrigerated, or placed in a sealed container if final disposition won't occur within 24 hours after the death. If a death occurs and no relative or other authorized person claims the body, the body must be embalmed within 24 hours. (25 Tex. Admin. Code § 181.4 (2024); Tex. Health & Safety Code § 691.025 (2024).)

If you plan to transport the body by common carrier (such as an airplane or train), it must be placed in a sound casket inside a strong outside shipping case or a metal container designed for shipping bodies. If the body isn't embalmed, Texas regulations require the body to be placed in:

  • an airtight metal casket encased in a "strong outside shipping case," or
  • a sound casket encased in an airtight metal or metal-lined shipping case.

(25 Tex. Admin. Code § 181.3 (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.

If the person died of a contagious disease, you should consult a doctor.

Getting a Death Certificate in Texas

Texas law requires you to file the death certificate with the local registrar within ten days after the death and before final disposition. (Tex. Health & Safety Code § 193.003 (2024).)

The deceased person's doctor, physician assistant, or advanced practice registered nurse, or the medical examiner, must supply the date, time, and cause of death within five days after receiving the death certificate. (Tex. Health & Safety Code § 193.005 (2024).)

If you are using a funeral director, the funeral director will file the report of death, obtain the medical certification, and file the death certificate.

If you won't be using a funeral director to carry out final arrangements, you must file the report of death form (described above) with the local registrar of vital statistics. Texas now uses electronic death registration, but you might want to consider contacting your local registrar to make sure you're filing the report correctly.

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

In Texas, a copy of the report of death (described above) serves as a permit to transport and bury the body within the state. (25 Tex. Admin. Code § 181.2 (2024).)

If the body will be transported out of the state for final disposition, shipped by common carrier within the state, or cremated, the local registrar must issue a burial-transit permit after you file the death certificate. (25 Tex. Admin. Code § 181.2 (2024).)

Can You Bury a Body at Home in Texas?

There are no state laws in Texas prohibiting home burial, but local governments may have rules governing private burials. Before burying a body on private property or establishing a family cemetery, you should check with the county or town clerk for any zoning laws you must follow. You can most likely hold a home burial if you live in a rural area.

For more information, see Establishing a Family/Community Cemetery at the Texas Cemeteries & Crematories Association website.

What About Cremation?

Some crematories require 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 Texas, a burial-transit permit issued by the local registrar serves as a cremation permit. The death certificate must be filed before the registrar will issue this permit. (25 Tex. Admin. Code § 181.2 (2024).)

There is a required waiting period of 48 hours before cremation may occur, unless waived in writing by a justice of the peace, a medical examiner, or court order. (Tex. Health & Safety Code § 716.04 (2024).)

Texas law allows you to scatter ashes:

  • on uninhabited public land
  • over a public waterway or sea, or
  • on private property, with the owner's permission.

The cremated remains must be removed from their container before scattering, unless the container is biodegradable. (Tex. Health & Safety Code § 716.304 (2024).)

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

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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