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 Wyoming.
In all states, it is legal to have your loved one's body at home after they die. Wyoming does not require you to involve a licensed funeral director in making or carrying out final arrangements. (See, for example, Wyoming Statutes § 35-1-418 (2019), which permits a "funeral director or person acting as such" to file the death certificate.)
Wyoming 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:
(Wyoming Statutes § 2-17-101 (2019).)
How to appoint a representative. To name someone to carry out your final arrangements, you need only write down what you want in a signed, dated document.
Naming your representative in an advance health care directive. One smart way to appoint a representative is to make an advance health care directive naming a health care agent. In your document, you can give your agent explicit power to carry out your final arrangements. (You must make this authority clear in the power of attorney document; otherwise your agent's decision-making power ends when you die.) This saves the trouble of making separate documents for final arrangements and health care decisions.
For information about making a power of attorney, see Living Wills & Medical Powers of Attorney.
To make a Wyoming advance directive that appoints your health care agent to carry out your final plans, you can use Nolo's Quicken WillMaker & Trust software.
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.
Wyoming requires embalming under the following circumstances:
Wyoming regulations also state that a public funeral for anyone who died of a communicable disease must be conducted under the supervision of the local health officer. (Wyoming Board of Embalming Regulations, Chapter 4 § 9.)
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. Wyoming law requires you to file the death certificate with the local registrar within three days after the death and before removal of the body from the state. (Wyoming Statutes § 35-1-418 (2019).)
The deceased person's doctor or the coroner must supply the date, time, and cause of death and present the death certificate to you within "a reasonable time after death" for completion and filing. (Wyoming Statutes § 35-1-418 (2019).)
Wyoming now uses electronic death registration, but not all doctors and funeral directors use the system. You can usually obtain a paper death certificate from the deceased person's doctor. If the physician does not have blank death certificates on hand, the local registrar, coroner, or hospital can supply one for you.
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 you have filed the death certificate, the local registrar will issue a burial-transit permit that allows you to move the body to prepare it for final disposition. (Wyoming Statutes § 35-1-420 (2019).) For example, if someone dies outside the home, you would need this authorization before bringing the body home for care. Or, if someone dies at home, this permission is necessary to move the body to a location away from home for burial or cremation.
There are no state laws in Wyoming 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.
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 Wyoming, the burial-transit permit also authorizes cremation -- no additional permit is necessary. (Wyoming Statutes § 33-16-533 (2019).)
There is a required waiting period of 24 hours before cremation may occur, unless waived in writing by the coroner. (Wyoming Funeral Service Practitioners Act, Chapter 4 § 5.)
For more information about cremation, including information on scattering ashes, see Burial and Cremation Laws in Wyoming.
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.