Does the law say that I must be embalmed?
No state requires routine embalming and some don't require it at all. It is not required for cremation if performed immediately. If a funeral salesperson tells you that it is the law, ask what special circumstances exist that require it. Insisting that embalming is required where it is not is against the law.
The following chart lists state embalming laws. Note the four categories:
- Waiting Period: Numbers state the hours that a corpse must be embalmed or refrigerated.
- Disease: Embalming may be required for certain communicable or contagious diseases. The letters RQD means that when the patient has died of infectious illness, a doctor must be consulted to determine whether the corpse should be embalmed or not. (Embalming may actually further the spread of some diseases. Hawaii has laws against embalming under certain circumstances.) Which diseases are covered by these laws varies from state to state. Check with your local public health department for specifics if you live in one of these states.
- Interstate Transport. Some states require that embalming be performed on bodies being shipped out of state.
- Common Carrier. Some states require that embalming be performed before a body can be shipped on a common carrier such as an airline, a trucking line, or a ship.
|District of Columbia||No(2)||No||No||No|
|Minnesota (5)||72 (6)||Yes||No||Yes|
|Montana||48||Yes||No (9)||No (9)|
|New Jersey||48||24||No||(Yes) (7)|
|New Mexico||24||No (10)||No||No|
|North Carolina||No||No (10)||No||No|
|South Dakota (8)||24||No||No||No|
1 The 48 hour period applies when the body is slated for cremation.
2 The body must be disposed of within one week.
3 Those dying of certain diseases may not be embalmed.
4 Embalming is required for mausoleum interments.
5 Refrigeration is not an acceptable alternative to embalming in this state.
6 Embalming required for public viewing.
7 Embalming is required if the ultimate destination of the corpse is not reached in 24 hours or if final disposition does not take place within 48 hours.
8 Embalming is not required if handled by a family. Deceased must not have died of a communicable disease.
9 The corpse must be provided with a "proper covering".
10 Sealed casket required.
11 Corpse must be promptly buried, cremated or embalmed.
12 A sealed casket is an acceptable alternative.