Laridian (laridian) wrote,

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How to dispose of a body in Texas

My folks still get the dead tree edition of the newspaper, and this morning my mom handed me an article on the bizarre status of "how to bury, or not, a dead Texan" (not the exact title) with the cryptic statement "Dad and I are thinking about some of these."

You'd think this article would be on the newspaper's website, but noooo, if it is, I sure can't find it. Which is a shame. (Edit: Man, it took a while! But Google came through!)

In sum: Texas is weird. But we already kinda knew that, right? (Though we have nothing on Florida Man!)

Anyway, after reading the article, I asked if this meant we're having a backyard barbecue with a blanket corpse toss and the like, because we do like our dark humor sometimes. Mom and Dad agreed wholeheartedly, but then on a more serious note, given the cost of a funeral, right now they can't decide between cremation and being buried next to Dad's parents (comparatively nearby, nice place, not prone to flooding) or Mom's parents (one of whom is still alive but presumably will be placed in the same location when the time comes; farther away, prone to hurricanes), or spending the money on a piece of land in the boondocks and establishing a family cemetery and/or Fallout-style Vault, if we could find one of those old missile silos. (Advantages: probably closer than the other two, plus missile silo location, perfect for larping and scaring the crap out of people later on, not so nice if you want a peaceful pretty place for eternal rest)

I had to make a new tag for this.

ETA: Added text under the cut because, apparently, I'm special enough to see it despite not subscribing, but others aren't.

When it comes to dealing with the dead, Texans have lots of leeway.

The easiest option is to hire a funeral director, but there are the do-it-yourself options as well.

A suite of statutes regulates the funeral industry, with licensure and quality requirements for funeral homes, embalmers, crematories and cemeteries, mostly under the jurisdiction of the Texas Funeral Service Commission.

Kyle Smith, staff attorney at the commission, said, "We do not in any way form or fashion regulate the Texans individually when they take over and don't want a funeral director involved."

That, he said, is up to law enforcement. There are very few laws regulating family-run burials, and those on the books are hard to enforce.

For example, the Texas Administrative code says, "No human body may be held in any place or be in transit more than 24 hours after death and pending final disposition unless either maintained at a temperature within the range of 24 – 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or is embalmed by a licensed embalmer."

State law requires a death certificate be obtained within 10 days of the death. That is typically the responsibility of the funeral director who is hired to take charge of the body. A family who wishes not to use a funeral director should obtain their own death certificate, but Smith acknowledged that non-compliance is hard to detect.

There is one requirement for burial that no one can sidestep: land.

Even if the state posits few laws, whoever controls the intended burial site will have their own rules. Public parks don't generally allow on-site grave digging.

But according to the Texas health and safety code, a family or individual can declare their own cemetery on private land. So long as the land stays under 10 acres, it remains unregulated by the complex licensing rules of the funeral service commission.

Folks can also organize an "unincorporated association of plot owners" to form a cemetery exempt from those requirements.

Texas law requires such small unregulated cemeteries to be a certain distance outside municipal boundaries. The required distance depends on the size of the city, and ranges from one mile outside a town of 5,000 to five miles outside a city of 200,000 or more.

That means you can't bury a loved one in your backyard in you live in the city, but it may be fair game in unincorporated areas.

The locations of family or other unregulated cemeteries may also be restricted by local rules regarding flood plains, drainage, underground cabling or deed restrictions.

Once the land is procured, restrictions are slim. A body must be buried at least two feet below the surface.

"There is no statutory requirement for a person to be buried in a certain kind of container," Smith said.

Actually, that is true for all Texas burial sites. It's up to the cemetery, not the state, how the dead should be interred.

"In today's society, most cemeteries require a minimum of a concrete grave liner, but that doesn't mean that all [cemeteries] do," said Charlotte Waldrum, spokeswoman for the Texas Funeral Directors Association.

The graver liners are concrete boxes for the casket. Some people may opt for the fancier burial vault.

Those boxes have become necessary since heavy machinery started digging graves, putting lots of weight on the ground below, collapsing caskets and creating depressions in the earth.

Some cemeteries set aside space where grave liners aren't required, indulging the trend of "green" burials, where the dead are interred in a simple wooden box or merely wrapped in cloth.

There is one way to sidestep the need for land: cremation. A death certificate must specify the means of final disposition for the body, and there is no option for home cremation. However, no law prohibits home cremation, although local fire codes limit the size of open fires permitted.

There is also a Swedish company that will turn a corpse into compost by freezing it with liquid nitrogen, then shattering it into dust.

((links in article, not here, too lazy))
Tags: death and what comes after
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