Home Funerals

  • In Maryland, Delaware, and the District, individuals may care for their own dead at home although as a practical matter it is usually advisable to coordinate with a licensed funeral director for help with the appropriate documentation and transportation, and burial. It will certainly be necessary for cremation.  Here is more information about filing death certificates and burial. In the District, if the death was due to a contagious or infectious disease, handling and disposition of the body must be by a licensed funeral director.
  • Carrying out a home funeral requires significant preparation in advance.
  • No state requires routine embalming. In general, unembalmed bodies may be safely kept for two or three days if conditions are not overly warm. Dry ice should be used if the body will be kept for more than 24 hours to avoid decomposition. 
  • A simple covered box may be purchased from a funeral home or crematory, over the internet, or built at home. Many sources for anything from a cardboard box suitable for cremation (less than $200), to a wide selection of tasteful and sometimes handmade wood coffins, willow baskets, and caskets, some in the $400 to $700 range, can be found online, as well as sources for instructions to build your own wood coffin. 
  • Here are some resources available to those planning or thinking about a home funeral:
    • Crossings is an organization based in Takoma Park, MD that offers local assistance with home vigils and alternative after-death care.  Now run by Jane Ellen Johnson.
    • The National Home Funeral Alliance is an organization committed to supporting home funeral education that lists resources local to any area throughout the country. It also offers on its website a Guidebook for Home Funerals newly published in 2023.
    • Final Passages is an institute dedicated to conscious dying, home funeral and green burial education.
    • Maryland Funeral Resources and Education is a website developed in 2023 by Lee Webster, an expert on green burial and home funerals, full of current information for those interested in participating in any aspect of the after-death care of a loved one. Maryland is one of four states featured in depth on www.funeralpartnership.org. It is a treasure trove of information.   

Funeral Consumers Alliance of Maryland and Environs

P.O. Box 34177

Bethesda, MD 20827


FCAME is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Donations are tax-deductible to the extent of the law.