What Do You Want to Happen to Your Body after Death?

burial plan, estate planning, new jersey, burial, cremation

What Do You Want to Happen to Your Body after Death?

Depending on your age and health, you may thinking about what you would like to happen to your remains after you die.  Yet before you pen lengthy instructions to your heirs about your glorious Viking funeral, you should contact an attorney to ensure that your desired burial plan is legal.

When it comes to burial and cremation, state and federal laws must be obeyed. Imagine if, after you die, your heirs discover that your wishes for your final resting place are illegal.  What will they do?  More importantly, what will happen to your body?  Will your remains be put to rest in a manner contrary to your moral or religious beliefs?


Embalming is not a necessary step in the burial process.  Today, bodies can be refrigerated prior to burial.  However, the state of New Jersey requires bodies be buried, cremated, embalmed or refrigerated within 48 hours after death or if they are to cross state lines.  Also, some funeral homes require embalming for a public viewing.

Additionally, you are not required to be buried in a casket.  You may be placed in the ground in an ornate $20,000 coffin or nothing at all.  However, you should check with the cemetery where you intend to be buried to ensure that they do not require some type of container.

Further, it is important to understand that your non-cremated remains must be buried on cemetery property — not private land.  In order for your remains to be buried on private land, there would have to be a private cemetery located on the land.  For example, if you owned a historical estate with an existing approved family cemetery plot, you would be able to have your remains buried there.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, for burials at sea, non-cremated remains must be disposed of at least 3 nautical miles from land and in water at least 600 feet deep.  Certain areas, including east central Florida, the Dry Tortugas, Florida and west of Pensacola, Florida to the Mississippi River Delta, require water at least 1,800 feet deep.


Cremation is the process of exposing the human body to temperatures of 1800 – 2000 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours or more.  A casket is not required for the cremation process — all that’s required is an alternative container which may be made of wood or cardboard.

Ashes may be kept at home, or scattered on your own property or that of another (whom you have permission from).  For scattering of ashes in lakes and rivers, you must apply for a local or state permit (depending on location).

In regards to scattering ashes at sea, the EPA explains that cremated remains shall be buried in or on ocean waters without regard to the depth limitations specified for non-cremated remains as long as the burial takes place at least 3 nautical miles from land.

Donate your body to science

In accordance with the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act of 1968, if you wish to donate part, or all of your body to science, you may do so, provided you are a New Jersey resident over the age of 18.

To speak to an experienced estate planning attorney about your estate plan and how you would like your remains handled after death, Alec Borenstein, Esq., at alec@bmcestateplanning.com or call 908­-236­-6457. We have offices in Union County, Hunterdon County, Brooklyn, and we even make housecalls!

By at .