Guidelines for Burial or Cremation without a Funeral Director

Caring for your own dead can be immensely rewarding and help ease the pain of grief. It is also emotionally demanding, and, because of the widespread misunderstanding of the law in Massachusetts, it can be difficult. The law clearly permits persons to care for their own dead. The state Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) has provided written guidelines to the city and town clerks and boards of health advising them that the care of one’s own dead is legal. Even the Board of Registration in Embalming and Funeral Directing has agreed to withdraw its objections to issuance of burial permits to persons other than undertakers.

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Bench

If you are considering caring for your own dead, we recommend that you plan carefully and communicate in advance with the agencies you will have to deal with…

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Candles

In September 2014, the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records implemented an online system for death certificates and burial permits. An individual who chooses…

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Water Lily Red

Disposition/Removal Permit

(Formerly Burial Permit) The “Permit” is actually a permit to transport a body and dispose of it by burial, cremation or donation to a medical school…

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Statue Bowing

Time is an obvious constraint in carrying out the care of your own dead. Nursing homes often want a body removed immediately…

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Cremation

Cremation

Cremation requires an additional certificate from the medical examiner stating that they have viewed the body and that no further examination or judicial inquiry concerning the same is necessary…

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Burial

Burials

A box can be made of plywood for less than $100. A simple container for cremation, often called an “alternative container” can be obtained from a cooperative crematory or funeral director…

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Hand Heart Body Donation

Body Donation

Although body donation does not, strictly speaking, come under the heading of caring for your own dead, it does provide an alternative to conventional cremation and burial. If you wish to be a body donor…

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Death Certificate

Coordinating Death Certificate Completion

The Medical Certifier Worksheet must be completed by the certifying physician or medical examiner prior to the release of the body. You will work with the city/town clerk for data entry….

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PDF Forms

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Medical Certifier Worksheet

Medical Certifier Worksheet