I just received a question from a reader asking if it is illegal to transport a body across state lines. This is a line often used by funeral directors to discourage people from do-it-yourself funerals.
As stated in A Christian Ending, there are NO Federal Laws regulating funerals or the transport of bodies across state lines. There are Federal Trade Commission regulations regarding what a professional funeral director may do and say to a potential customer; that’s all.
No, it is not illegal to transport a body across state lines yourself PROVIDED you have the proper paper work showing that you have a right to do so. In our county that paper is called a BRT (Burial, Removal and Transport) document. This is a good thing. Obviously, we don’t want people running around willie-nillie with dead bodies in the trunk. This document tells anyone who should happen to stop you that you have the right to be in possession of this particular body for transport to a final destination. In our state anyone can sign for possession of a body for burial and receive the BRT. You must be familiar with the laws and regulations in your area or where the body is. Most coroners, hospital morgues and county departments of vital records will be quite helpful in explaining procedures to you. You will provide a copy of the BRT to the cemetery for their records to show that they accepted the body legally for burial.
A while back we had a death in our church. We are in South Carolina and the person was to be buried in North Carolina at an Orthodox monastery. We prepared the body. The next day, before the funeral I received a call from a family member in a panic because the monastery had informed them that it was illegal to transport a body across state lines. I reassured them and then quickly got on the internet, looked up North Carolina funeral regulations, printed and highlighted the pertinent paragraphs and faxed them to the monastery. This is a good lesson. NEVER GET YOUR ADVICE FROM A FUNERAL DIRECTOR. The monastery was relying on the verasity of the funeral director that they normally do business with. The FD simply lied to them. Imagine, a funeral director lying to a bunch of nuns just for a few bucks.
We have also carried a body from South Carolina to Pennsylvania in a trailer pulled behind an SUV. The trip took two days but was handled beautifully with dry ice. We also shipped one dear friend by air to Washington, DC. Air shipping requires a special container but that is all. We can talk more about that another time.
AS ALWAYS: It is your responsibility to know the laws in your area or where the funeral will be held. We have not made an exhaustive study of state or local funeral laws and we DO NOT dispense legal advice. Laws and regulations vary greatly from state to state and sometimes there are local regulations as well. Generally, funeral laws and regulations are readily available on the internet and pretty easy to read. If there is something you don’t understand, hire a local attorney to read and explain the laws to you.