Is Embalming Required? Laws and Scenarios

Published November 3, 2020
Open Casket

Is embalming required may be a thought you have after a loved one passes away and you begin planning a funeral, memorial, or celebration of life service. While in most cases, embalming is not required, there are some states and funeral homes that have certain rules and regulations regarding embalming.

Is Embalming Required?

In most cases, embalming is not required as long as the body is buried or cremated soon after the individual has passed away. However, some funeral homes and states will require embalming under certain circumstances.

How Long Can a Body Be Kept Without Embalming?

A body can be kept for about a week without embalming, however it will need to be refrigerated during this time to delay decaying. Partial embalming may also be an option if the funeral will take place a week or so after the passing.

Is It Law That a Body Has to Be Embalmed?

There are no state laws that require embalming under every circumstance, however, there are some states that have certain regulations that must be followed. Some examples include:

  • In Alabama, if the body is going to be shipped out of state, it must be embalmed.
  • In Alaska, the body must be embalmed or refrigerated beginning 24 hours after the individual has passed away. If the individual had a contagious disease, or if the body is being shipped to another state, it must be embalmed.
  • In California, embalming is required if the body is being transported by train, truck, or ship.
  • In Connecticut, embalming is required if the individual had a contagious disease.
  • In Florida, 24 hours after passing away a body must by refrigerated or embalmed.

Is Embalming Required for Cremation

Embalming is not required for cremation, however, if there is going to be a viewing, embalming may be required. Because bodies decompose fairly quickly, unless the viewing will take place immediately after the passing (which is unlikely), embalming will be required. If there will be a service after the cremation, embalming is not required, as the body will not be present.

Why Embalm?

Embalming is meant to temporarily preserve the body as funerals or memorial services tend to take place a few days to weeks after someone has passed away. Embalming may be required in certain states if the person had an infectious disease, and/or if they are being transported.

Worker of funeral service making posthumous cosmetics

What Happens if You Don't Embalm a Body?

If you don't embalm a body, the decaying process will begin shortly after. Between 24 and 72 hours after passing away, the body will begin the process of decomposition.

Viewing a Body Without Embalming

Private viewings without embalming are allowed, as long as the body is kept refrigerated. If the viewing will take place in a funeral home, there may be certain regulations in terms of embalming, so it's best to ask your specific funeral home what their requirements are.

Are Disinfectants Used in Embalming?

Formaldehyde, which is considered a disinfectant, is used in the embalming process. Formaldehyde helps disinfect, as well as preserve the body after someone has passed away.

Reasons Not to Embalm

Embalming can be quite expensive. Aside from wanting to save money, someone may choose not to embalm:

  • If they opt for direct cremation
  • If they opt for green cremation
  • If the burial will take place shortly after the passing
  • If they want a green burial
  • If the funeral home offers refrigeration options
  • If you are holding a service after cremation
Funeral ceremony and cremation service

Understanding Embalming Rules and Regulations

While there aren't state laws that note embalming is required for every passing, there are some rules and regulations to be aware of. Being aware of embalming rules and requirements can assist you in making an informed decision when it comes to embalming. Next, get valuable information about the average time between a death and a funeral to help you with your planning.

Is Embalming Required? Laws and Scenarios