Home Funerals in Texas

bouquet of flowers by window

When a loved one dies, it seems like so many decisions have to be made right away, and those precious last days are spent on the phone or in the car. For this reason, many people are choosing home funerals over the traditional funeral home settings.

In a home funeral, the family brings the body home after death. Home funerals are legal in Texas and funeral directors are not necessary for any activities unless the family asks for one. Choosing this option allows family members to grieve in private with family and friends, honoring the memory of the deceased.

The main responsibility for the funeral usually falls on the spouse. However, if he or she doesn't feel up to the task, it can go to adult children, a parent, a sibling, or even the executor of the will. This person takes care of important paperwork, such as:

  • Death certificate – The death certificate is the legal proof that the person has died. It is necessary to settle the deceased's estate. It contains such information as the deceased's age, date of birth, gender, and race, as well as the date and cause of death.
  • Transportation permit – In Texas, a copy of the death certificate may be used as a permit to transport the body within the state. If you are transporting the body outside of the state for final disposition, shipped by common carrier, or cremated, the local registrar must issue a burial-transit permit after you file a death certificate.

These documents are crucial for bringing the deceased's body home. If the cause of death is obvious or predetermined, a family member may claim the body from the hospital as soon as a death certificate has been completed by a doctor or medical examiner. If there is a suspicious death, the release will be delayed, pending investigation. It's important to become familiar with all the details of these requirements and work respectfully with the doctors involved with your case.

When the body is released, the death certificate becomes the transportation permit, allowing the body to be moved in a vehicle appropriate in size and in a container that keeps the body properly cooled. Embalming is not necessary in Texas, as long as the body is kept between 35 to 40 degrees, usually using dry ice. The person acting in the position of funeral director is responsible for all aspects of this journey.

Once the body is home, care for the body begins. It is carefully washed with soap and water, removing any bacteria, dried, and dressed in clothes chosen by the family. It is then placed in a container, such as a homemade casket or coffin. Dry ice is packed around the body, then discreetly covered with a blanket or some type of material, ensuring it remains between 35 and 40 degrees. With proper hygiene and cooling techniques, it is perfectly safe to keep a deceased person in your home for several days. In this way, they do not pose any increased health risk.

With the advent of the “natural friendly” and “eco friendly” burials, the containers come in a wide assortment, ranging from cardboard, cotton, wicker, etc., along with the traditional metal and wood. It's up to the family to choose. Just be sure to research Texas' laws concerning your particular choice. Also, Texas does allow private burial on private property, but you still must become familiar with your local county and city government's rules and regulations concerning such things as underground pipelining, water sources, zoning, etc. You must also become familiar with Texas Health and Safety Codes before taking any steps. Keep in mind that, in Texas, the definition of a cemetery is a place of “one or more” burials, so with one burial you will be creating a private cemetery, and there are laws you will be required to follow.

If you opt for cremation, be sure to choose a crematory that will work with you and not only with funeral directors. In order to give all officials time to examine the body before it is cremated, there is a 48 hour waiting period before the process begins. If you wish to scatter any or all of the ashes, you may choose uninhabited land, public waterways or sea, or on private property, with the owner's permission.

There is no set type of memorial. It could be a religious service or a cultural service. Some people prefer a more laid-back approach, with music and laughter, “good food and good friends.” Whatever you choose, there'll be pictures on the wall, books in the bookcase, pets, knickknacks, and souvenirs-the loved one's world surrounds you to make you laugh or cry or just be happy you had them in your life.

Home funerals allow families to honor their loved ones in ways that used to be the norm. Some women see caring for the body as the ultimate gift. A hand-carved casket, a handmade dress or shirt, selecting the music, writing a eulogy-all of these were acts of love that help family members grieve. Today, these things shared respectfully in a familiar, safe place also help everyone leave with a sense of peace and closure in a way that leaving an unfamiliar church or funeral home can't do.