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Introduction to the Law

You can view or download this guide in PDF format. To download, right-click (on a Mac, ctrl-click) on the link below.

In Massachusetts, as in all states, it is entirely legal to take care of your loved one in your home after they die. Most home funeral families have a vigil for one to three days. In Massachusetts there is a law that a person cannot be cremated until 48 hours after death. Rather than pay to have your loved one at a funeral home or crematory, this is the perfect time to have a vigil in the home.

MA and 40 other states allow families to do the paperwork and transport their loved one to final disposition, that is, to a crematory or cemetery. In nine "restrictive" states -- CT, IL, IA, IN, LA, NY, MI, NE, NJ -- laws have been enacted that prohibit families from carrying out these tasks. For more information, see this white paper on the National Home Funeral Alliance site:

Since this old tradition is, in modern days, still fairly new, most state, city, and town officials and institutions (hospitals, nursing homes) have yet to experience a family wanting to hold a home funeral. Their lack of knowledge sometimes requires families and advocates to educate those with whom they need to work.

It is vital that, when possible, a family member or advocate inform any officials (hospice, hospital, primary care doctor, etc.) before the death about the family's plans to hold a home funeral.

Important documents to have when approaching officials or policymakers

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Most recently updated 2016-06-23