Home Funerals a.k.a.
Family-directed Funerals a.k.a.
Caring for your own dead is totally legal!
The State of Utah even publishes general guidelines and a form for YOUR use at https://vitalrecords.utah.gov/ then scroll down the page and click on File a Death Record.
Didn't find it? keep scrolling, great treasure is often hidden. "File a Death Record" is the last item before the bottom of the page and looks like this:
Even though it's not Rocket Science here are Step by Step Instructions (see purple side-bar) as well as other How-to and Video sections (below).
Advantages to DIY:
You can take more time with various aspects of your goodbye.
The stress of cost is reduced.
No one is trying to sell you anything.
No embalming means the body looks more natural and doesn't smell like chemicals (more embalming facts).
The body can be present 24 hrs/day in the home until a the final ceremony and disposition.
Transporting across state lines is easy and inexpensive (YOU are not required to have a body embalmed for this unless you hire a Utah Funeral Director because their Licensure requires it).
We Did it For Love
(A personal story shared by a member of FCA of Utah)
In the past 4 years I have been in charge of burying both of my parents, a very close friend who had almost no family, and my mother-in-law. My brother made a simple wood casket for my dad, and it felt so good that we did the same for my mom a year later. On the inside of the lid the kids, grandkids and great grandkids wrote sweet notes with a sharpie. After each funeral we put the casket in the back of a suburban with all of the flowers and took them to southern Utah for burial. What a joy it was for me to take my dad for his last drive to his beloved hometown and drive fast over a short dirt road. We moved the little backhoe machine out of the way and my brothers lowered my dad down into his grave with ropes. I know Dad was smiling.
A year later when my friend died, my brother again made a simple wood casket that we painted to look like my friend's cherry red 1964 GTO. He wasn't a religious guy and didn't have much family or many friends so it was just a graveside service with military honors. Money was very tight, and after doing my parents funerals I had learned a lot about what I could do on my own. I paid to have him embalmed and stored at a mortuary so his sister could arrive from Washington, but that was the only real expense I paid to the mortuary ($700-$800). I purchased the cement vault from the veteran's cemetery and paid them for the grave digging and headstone. The mortuary had me sign some papers as if they were turning the remains over to another mortuary so they wouldn't be liable, but that didn't intimidate me at all.
When my mother-in-law died my wife was afraid of push back from her siblings so we didn't do her funeral the "Redneck" way we had done my parents, even though I know my mother-in-law would have approved. Her funeral cost 3 or 4 times as much as my parent's funerals and while it was nice, I missed the satisfaction of handling the details myself and showing the love and care that our involvement brought to the process.
I found the mortuary (Memorial Estates) to be quite helpful and willing. Of course I knew, or thought I knew exactly what I wanted each time. If I had known of your organization sooner I would have had a much shorter learning curve. They weren't quite sure what to do when I didn’t want anything but embalming for my friend and told me that it was the first time they had done that for an individual. So they timidly asked to me sign their form treating me as though I was another mortuary. Each time the first thing they told me was that it is not required to have the deceased embalmed and explained what the process should be if we made the choice to not embalm.
Each of these “do it yourself” experiences was very cathartic for me, for my siblings and other family members and friends. I know some people thought what we were doing was odd, but not in a disapproving way. Knowing our family they were surprised, but certainly not shocked.
For my family, the more involved we were, the easier the grieving process became...and sitting down with a mortician to plan stuff is not involvement. We were happy to save money but that is not why we did it. We did it for love.
VIDEOS: Part 1 — Moving the Body (3min), Part 2 — Washing the Head, Face, and Mouth (11min), Part 3 — Washing the Body (9min, remember the body should be draped modestly as you would a live bedridden person, but they didn't for the video), Part 4 — Dressing the Body (6min includes closing eyes & mouth), Part 5 — Final Preparations (8min includes casketing or wrapping in a shroud)
PassingThroughOur Hands is a nice documentary style video instruction.
Undertaken with Love, A Home Funeral Guide for Congregations and Communities. FREE Pdf
Final Passages finalpassages.org $26&up. In sidebar click on "Our Guidebook". How-to booklets A&B contain elements helpful to Utahans.
Crossings: Caring for Our Own at Death crossings.net has good resources.
Performing a home funeral in another state:
Home Funeral Directory homefuneraldirectory.com
The new book: Final Rights. Josh Slocum and Lisa Carlson take you through story after story of funeral chicanery from sea to shining sea. You'll see Utah highlighted from the very beginning! A state by state reference guide of funeral freedoms and restrictions is included in the second half of the book.
National Home Funeral Alliance Lots of helpful information.
For personal support & encouragement in carrying out a do-it-yourself funeral:
In Northern Utah call Kathleen at 801-605-8883. (held an in-home viewing followed by church funeral and city cemetery burial)
or Robert at 801-388-9158 (has personally encouraged hundreds of Utahans to spend less on funerals through his gift to gab and skill at making simple caskets)
In Salt Lake or Utah County call Joyce at 801-368-5884 (carried out a friend's after-deathcare, her own father-in-law's (involving NY & UT services), as well as advising many many others. She has a passion for presenting to groups and to encourage funeral preparedness in religious congregations)
In the South 1/2 of Utah County call Kathy at 801-932-0909. (held a two day open house viewing in her home followed by a church funeral and burial at Camp Williams cemetery)
In Southern Utah call Beverly at 775-530-0492 (experienced unexpected death out-of-state, dealt with the compromises it required, without overspending)
All kinds of helpful resources are available from the National Home Funeral Alliance at http://homefuneralalliance.org/
Pre-planning a Home Funeral
Fill out the Utah State living-will form (the form is under the last heading on page)
Fill out a Funeral Planning Form (see "plan ahead" page)
Figure the cost of cremation or burial and how to pay for it (savings or insurance policy).
If you don't have next-of-kin that can carry out your plan, fill out an Assignment Form to appoint someone else to control the disposition of your remains.
If you want to provide a program for funeral attendees here is a template in Microsoft Publisher format. Insert your own pictures and as much information as you can ahead of time.
Compile and give copies to your next-of-kin and your chosen Dispositioner.
Home Burials Offer an Intimate Alternative (NY Times Jul 2009)
A Movement to Bring Grief Back Home (Washington Post June 2005)
A Family Undertaking (PBS Aug 2004) The comments below the trailer are great.
*Pictures of home funerals can be viewed at Undertaken with Love's Flickr site.
Scroll down farther than you think when viewing that page, there's so much good stuff.
Honorably discharged veterans get free burial at Veterans National Cemeteries (includes the grave, vault, opening and closing, marker, and setting fee). Utah Families do not have to hire a funeral director. Families can even bring their deceased veteran to the cemetery themselves. Many State Veterans Cemeteries also offer free burial for veterans and, often, spouses too. More info:
For help with a home funeral in Northern Utah or to speak to your group about home funerals call Kathleen Owen at 801-605-8883
Viewing: friends & family visit mourners and can see the body.
Visitation: friends & family visit mourners while casket closed or body not present at all.
Either can be held at home as an open house (for hours or days). Or, just prior to starting time, at the location of ceremony.
Memorial: a ceremonial meeting where the body is not present.
Funeral: a ceremonial meeting where the body is present.
Final Disposition: the place where the body is relinquished to the forces of nature (cemetery: commercial or non-commercial, rural private property or crematory).
instructions on how to file a death certificate from Utah's Dept of Health office of Vital Records: Click on How to File a Death Certificate
In case Partial Mortuary Services are desired, See Prices at-a-glance on the right side of our Home page
An alternative to newspaper prices of $500-$1500. Get an Obituary for $50: