Natural Burial, Burial Vaults& Caskets- Taking A Look at the Legal Aspects
We live in an era where people like to have options and don’t necessarily go with the traditional ones. It’s the same with funeral services, and more and more people are slowly shifting away from traditional burials. But what’s legal and what’s not? What are your options when it comes to the end of your life?
What are the legal aspects in the case of natural burial?
You’re not the first to ask about the sustainability in death care and natural burial. Many people are concerned about the laws forbidding the choices in death care, especially when it comes to a natural return to the ground.
Green burials and natural burials are becoming a common choice. The first natural burial cemetery was established in the U.S. at the end of the ’90s at Ramsey Creek. At the moment, there are hundreds of new and current cemeteries that provide different ways of natural burial services.
Long story short, natural burial is legal, and no laws are prohibiting natural or green burial at the moment. However, there are state laws and federal regulations that regulate natural burials.
What do Federal Trade Commission Regulations say about natural burial?
When it comes to green and natural burial in the United States, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) only has two rules.
The Funeral Rule is the main one, protecting the consumer’s right to choose only the services and the goods they wish. It also allows the customer to pay exclusively for the services chosen. Therefore, you may very well plan a natural burial with a funeral home.
The Green Guides Revised in 2012 is the second to talk about, as the guidelines sustain the marketers of green products and services to only use language that doesn’t confuse the customers. Specific terms for funeral services would be compostable, biodegradable, non-toxic, and recycled.
Are the state laws different?
It goes without saying that the funeral laws differ from one state to another. Every state has the right to set the main aspects of funeral services. The “disposition of human remains” can have particularities in each state.
There are many boundaries and limitations for the way funeral homes and cemeteries run their business, but three aspects are common for all states: burial vaults, caskets, and embalming.
What’s the law on burial vaults?
You should know that are no laws about concrete burial being mandatory. Except for Louisiana and Massachusetts, the burial vaults aren’t required by law in most states.
However, people still think that they’re required, but it’s the policy of using vaults of most cemeteries that led to the misbelief. In all fairness, concrete and steel burial vaults ease out the location of a grave easy. They also allow you to dig disturbing human remains of another grave nearby.
Vaults also reduce the risk of collapsing and are easy to take care of. Plenty of commercial cemeteries define natural burial regions within their facilities for the vault-less ceremonies.
There are many conservation and natural burial cemetery sites all over the U.S. that don’t allow the use of steel caskets and burial vaults.
For instance, Trusted Caskets in Los Angeles encourages the use of biodegradable caskets and shrouds, with no concrete vaults or liners required. Either way, the options of caskets in Los Angeles, whether it’s for green burial or not, should cover all sorts of possibilities.
What does the law say about caskets?
No state laws are requiring you to use a casket for cremation or burial. Should a burial vault be used, the requirement for a casket may not exist. It’s not mandatory to use a vault nor a casket, and sometimes only a shroud may be enough for burial.
No laws are requiring you for the casket to be made of a specific material. Paper, wicker, cotton, cardboard, felt, wood, and any other materials can be used for the casket.
Is embalming mandatory by the law?
Just like in the case of caskets, no laws are requiring embalming. Even if the terminology differs from one state to another, the idea is that human remains have to be “disposed of” within 24 hours through cremation or burial. Otherwise, the mortal remains need to be preserved, with embalming and refrigeration as main methods.
Embalming has evolved over the last two decades, and many ways of “green” embalming don’t require the use of toxic formaldehyde.
One last thought
More and more people are turning to natural burial for various reasons. The lower costs and the lower impact of natural burials count the most, as people have started to care about the environment a lot more. A simple life should end, and returning to the ground in a less intrusive way is something to think about.