Guide to Understanding Florida Cremation Laws
Considering the high cost of a traditional burial, it is easy to understand why more Florida families choose cremation for themselves or loved ones. What is not as easily understood are the state laws regulating cremation. We created this guide to explain some of Florida’s cremation laws and how they protect you and your loved ones.
Why States Regulate Cremation and Disposition
Laws and regulations provide a clear set of procedures for handling human remains. This helps to prevent disputes and misunderstandings among the deceased's family members and ensures that all parties involved, from funeral homes to crematoriums, follow a consistent process.
Rights of the Deceased and Family
Cremation laws uphold the dignity and rights of the deceased. They set standards for handling and disposing of human remains respectfully. They also protect the rights of next of kin and loved ones, ensuring they can make decisions regarding the deceased's remains, with access to appropriate death care. Cremation laws and regulations help safeguard consumers from unscrupulous funeral providers.
Public Health and Safety
Cremation and burial involve procedures that, if not correctly managed, could pose risks to public health and safety. For instance, improper handling or disposal of human remains can lead to the spread of disease. Also, crematoriums must follow environmental regulations because improper cremation can release harmful pollutants into the air.
Record Keeping and Data Collection
Cremation laws stipulate requirements for death certificates and other related documentation. These records are essential for legal reasons, such as settling the deceased's estate, and for public health data collection. Space for burial is a significant concern in Florida as its population grows. Laws around burial can help manage land use more effectively.
Simplified Guide to Florida Laws for Cremation and Disposition
The Florida Legislature has comprehensive regulations about burial, cremation, and disposition of casketed and cremated remains. In this guide, we focus on the laws that affect most families as they make arrangements for a deceased or dying loved one or as part of their preplanned arrangements. If you have follow-up questions or concerns, read the statutes online, ask a licensed Florida funeral director, or contact an estate attorney familiar with Florida’s cremation statutes.
Florida Requires Written Authorization for Cremation
Florida law requires written approval from an authorized individual before any cremation procedures can begin. Oral consent is not legally sufficient.
A "legally authorized person" can decide about a deceased person's body. The order of individuals permitted to authorize cremation in Florida are:
- The deceased, if they left instructions or made prearrangements
- Spouse (unless the spouse caused the death due to violence)
- Adult children
- Adult siblings
- Adult grandchildren
- Other relatives
If no family is available, the state recognizes a guardian, legal representative, healthcare surrogate, and the designated individual on the US Department of Defense Record of Emergency Data (Form 93).
Minimum 48-Hour Waiting Period for Cremation After Death
According to Florida statute § 872.03, there is a minimum 48-hour waiting period between the time of death and the initiation of the cremation process. It's illegal to cremate a body until at least 48 hours (two days) after the person has died.
There are several reasons why the state requires a waiting period between death and cremation.
Verify the Cause of Death or Perform an Autopsy
State law requires a medical authority to establish the cause of death. This can be important in cases where there might be questions or uncertainties about the circumstances of the person's death. A minimum waiting period of 48 hours allows an autopsy to be conducted if the cause of death is uncertain, suspicious, or the result of a crime.
Family and Religious Considerations
A waiting period can provide time for family members to gather, particularly those who might need to travel long distances. Some religions or cultural traditions also require a period of mourning or specific rituals to be carried out before the body can be cremated.
Legal and Administrative Processes
A waiting period can allow time for necessary paperwork to be completed. This includes obtaining a permit for cremation or authorization from the next of kin.
Final Decision Making
Cremation is an irreversible decision that should be thoughtfully considered when the deceased did not specify cremation or burial. Florida’s waiting period gives families extra time to be sure about their decision for cremation.
Waiting periods are in place to ensure due diligence in respecting the rights of the deceased, the wishes of their loved ones, and any necessary legal or medical procedures.
Medical Examiner's Approval for Cremation
If a person dies in specific ways, such as violence, an accident, suicide, or in prison, a medical examiner must figure out the cause of death. The same goes for when a body is brought into Florida without a proper medical certificate or if a body is going to be cremated, dissected, or buried at sea.
Florida legislation states that a medical examiner (coroner) can grant or deny permission for cremation. In most situations, the medical examiner relies on the attending physician who supplied the information for the death certificate. However, a Florida medical examiner may order an autopsy if they have reason to believe the cause of death is inaccurate or suspect foul play.
Embalming Is Optional
Florida law does not require embalming. But if final disposition does not occur within 24 hours, a body must be embalmed or refrigerated. If you want a viewing, visitation, or funeral with an open casket, embalming might be necessary for health and sanitation reasons.
Deadline for Ash Collection
Under Florida law, you have 120 days to claim your loved one’s cremated ashes. If the ashes remain unclaimed after this period, the funeral home or company responsible for the remains may dispose of them. They may spread the ashes at sea, disperse them in a licensed cemetery scattering garden or columbarium, or use another disposal means permitted by law.
If you know that 120 days isn’t enough time — for example, you are active military and deployed overseas – make arrangements for someone else to collect the ashes and contact the funeral home or crematorium.
No Casket Required for Cremation
Florida does not require a casket for cremation. Under federal law, funeral homes or cremation centers must inform you that you may use an alternative container made from unfinished wood, pressed wood, cardboard, or fiberboard. They are obligated to offer these containers to you. Federal law states that funeral homes must accept caskets you bought from another source, such as an online retailer.
Some funeral homes have caskets for rent if you want a pre-cremation viewing, visitation, or memorial service.
Price Comparison Is Your Legal Right
Making funeral arrangements is an emotionally-charged event. It is possible to overspend or succumb to high-pressure sales tactics when you purchase arrangements for a loved one. As a consumer, you may decline services or items that you do not want or need, and that are not required by state of local ordinances.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)’s Funeral Rule allows you to request a General Price List (GPL) from a funeral home or cremation provider. You have the legal right to compare prices, services, and providers.
Florida has a Funeral, Cemetery, and Services Division with additional consumer protection and information.
State Laws on Scattering or Storing Ashes
Florida does not have state laws restricting where cremation ashes can be stored or scattered. You may bury them in a grave, inter them in a columbarium, spread or scatter them in a cremation garden, or keep them in a container at home. If you want to scatter ashes, there are many options.
Designated Scattering Garden
Many cemeteries have specific gardens for ash dispersal. If you're considering this, inquire about the details at the cemetery.
Scattering on Private Property
You may scatter ashes on your privately owned property. If it’s not your property, get permission from the owner.
Dispersing Ashes on Public Land
You should check municipal and county rules and zoning regulations before dispersing ashes on local public land, such as a city park. However, many individuals proceed according to their discretion, letting their best judgment dictate their actions.
Scattering Ashes on Federal Land
Formally, you must ask for permission before dispersing ashes on federal lands. Similarly to local or state lands, it's likely you won't face any issues if you are discrete and the ashes are kept well clear of trails, roads, structures, developed regions, campsites, and bodies of water.
For more details, you can find guidance on ash dispersal on the National Park Service's website.
Spreading Ashes Over Water
According to the federal Clean Water Act, you must disperse cremated remains at least three nautical miles from shore. The container must be disposed of separately if it is not readily biodegradable. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prohibits ash dispersal at beaches or in wading pools adjacent to the sea. Furthermore, you must inform the EPA within 30 days of spreading ashes at sea.
The Clean Water Act also regulates dispersal in inland bodies of water like rivers or lakes. You might need a permit from the state agency overseeing the waterway for burial in inland water.
For further details, including the contact information for the EPA representative in Florida, consult the EPA's page on Burial at Sea.
Dispersing Ashes by Air
While there are no state laws about it, federal aviation laws forbid releasing any items that could potentially cause damage to individuals or property. Use your discretion before scattering ashes airborne from their container (do not drop a container or urn containing ashes).
Direct Cremation in Florida
Florida’s cremation laws encourage safe, transparent, and honest transactions. Being familiar with these statutes can help you understand your rights as a consumer. You also gain peace of mind knowing that your loved one is treated with dignity and respect after passing.
Tulip Serves Florida Families
Tulip Cremation provides simple, affordable cremation to Florida families from coast-to-coast. We offer a respectful, lower-cost alternative to traditional funeral homes that can cost thousands of dollars more. Direct cremation includes collecting your loved one from the place of passing, completing necessary paperwork and permits, performing a cremation without witnesses, and returning the cremated ashes to you via USPS Priority Mail.
Licensed funeral directors familiar with Florida’s cremation laws oversee the process to ensure your loved one is always safe and secure. And because we provide direct cremation only, you can organize a memorial service that suits your schedule and budget.
Our care team is available 24/7 to answer your questions. With Tulip, there’s no need to drive across town to a funeral home to make arrangements. Most Florida families complete their plans in about fifteen minutes from the comfort and privacy of their homes. Click here or call (844) 942-4909 to get started.