Caring for your own dead in Massachusetts

Between death and burial, those you leave behind will need to choose between:
  • Funeral home – To have a funeral home take care of all arrangements.
  • Home funeral – In Massachusetts, it is legal to care for your own dead without using a funeral home.
  • Blended funeral – You can choose services a là carte from some funeral homes.
What is a home funeral?
It is legal for a family to act as the funeral designee and take the role of the funeral director. A home funeral is when a loved one is cared for at home after death, giving family time to gather and participate in:
  • planning and carrying out after-death rituals or ceremonies
  • keeping the body cool with noninvasive techniques, such as ice
  • preparing the body for burial or cremation by bathing, dressing and laying out for visitation
  • filing the death certificate and obtaining transport and burial permits (For information on electronic death certificates and the responsibilities of a family designee, see VIP EDRS for families not working with a funeral home
  • transporting the deceased to the place of burial
  • facilitating the final disposition
Home funeral guides
Home funeral guides are not licensed funeral directors and do NOT do the work of preparing the body, providing transportation, etc. but can assist families with information about all of the above. Learn more:
Blended funeral i.e. hiring professionals for specific services
Some funeral directors will work with you to provide only those services that you would like to purchase. For instance it is common to hire a funeral director to prepare paperwork and transport the body, while family and friends take care of the rest. While embalming is not part of green burial, you can choose to hire a funeral director to otherwise prepare and shelter a body until burial. Some funeral homes have refrigeration facilities and allow visitation of unembalmed bodies. Check individual funeral homes for options and fees.