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How Long a Funeral Home Can Hold a Body? And 6 Related Questions

Ever wondered how long a funeral home can hold a body before burial? If so, we're here to help. Click here to find out the answer to your question!
Rest in Peace: Here's How Long a Funeral Home Can Hold a Body Before Burial
Ever wondered how long a funeral home can hold a body before burial? If so, we're here to help. Click here to find out the answer to your question!

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Did you know that a typical funeral in America costs a median of $7,360? The longer a body is held by a funeral home, then the greater the fees at the end of the bill.

Unfortunately, sometimes extenuating circumstances require a delay in burying the deceased. If you find yourself in this situation, then you may be wondering exactly how long funeral homes can hold the body before they must legally bury it.

Since the matter varies from state to state, the answer can be complicated. Regardless, we’ll do our best to educate you through this difficult time.

Frequently Asked Questions About How Long A Funeral Home Can Hold A Body

What Are Some Reasons Why Someone Might Need to Delay the Burial?

There are a variety of reasons why someone may need the funeral home to hold a body for longer than usual. One of the more popular reasons is if family members are delayed from the funeral.

For example, if someone is pregnant and traveling outside of the country, then they may not be able to fly if they’re close to their due date. However, more common reasons – like an error in the paperwork – can also occur.

Or, perhaps the funeral conflicts with a graduation or wedding event. In these cases, the body may need to be held for a few weeks before the funeral service can take place. Another reason is that the body is involved in a criminal investigation.
In these cases, a body may be inspected for up to a week. Funerals can also be delayed if the individual decides to donate their body to science, or donate their organs after they pass.

If you need to delay a funeral, then you may be worried about the added costs to your bill. Make sure to consult our funeral cost guide so you can get a ballpark figure. For a more specific estimate, contact your local funeral home.

What’s the Average Time a Funeral Home Holds a Body?

Between the time of death and the funeral service, most bodies remain in a funeral home between 3 and 7 days. However, there are a lot of tasks that need to be completed in this time frame, so it’s easy for the service to get delayed by extenuating circumstances.

What Paperwork Needs to Be Filled Out?

Typically, there is a form called Vital Statistics that is used to generate the Death Certificate. Once this information is submitted there is a Facts of Death Verification that is to be signed. Most states require an Authorization to Embalm (or decline to embalm). If you are planning to cremate, there is a Cremation Authorization.

How Long Does an Embalmed Body Last?

Some people think that embalming completely stops the decay of the body, but this isn’t true. If you plan on having an open-casket funeral, then you should not leave the embalmed body out for more than a week. Otherwise, the embalmed body can last two more weeks.

How Long Does a Refrigerated Body Last?

Refrigeration is an alternative method of body holding that lasts longer than embalming. Instead of preparing the body with chemicals, morticians will store it in a fridge that keeps the body at two degrees Celsius. However, like embalming, it’s important to remember that this merely slows the decomposition process – it doesn’t stop it. A refrigerated body will last three to four weeks. Also, keep in mind that some states, like North Dakota, do not allow refrigeration.

Which States Have Special Body Holding Laws?

There are no federal laws that state how long a funeral home can hold a body. However, most states have some type of law that says a body must be either embalmed or refrigerated within 24 to 48 hours after the time of death.

How Long Does Cremation Take?

The actual process of cremating a body can only take place after the necessary waiting period and paperwork can been completed. The actual time to fully cremate a body depends on several factors like the overall size and weight. Typically this process takes a couple of hours.

Some state laws determine how quickly a body needs to be preserved or held. In some cases, these laws only go into effect if the body has a communicable disease. We’ve listed the exceptions, but you can find a full list at the Home Funeral Alliance.


Disposition of the body in Connecticut must occur within a “reasonable time”.


Disposition of the body in Delaware must occur within five days.

Washington, DC

Disposition of the body in Washington DC must occur within one week.


Disposition of the body in Indiana must occur within a “reasonable time”.


In Montana, a body that dies of an infectious disease must be dealt with within a reasonable amount of time with as little handling as possible.

North Dakota

North Dakota requires immediate disposition under specific conditions and all dispositions must take place within 8 days. Also, refrigeration is not allowed as a preservation method in the state.


In Ohio bodies that have a communicable disease must be cremated or buried within 24 hours.


In Oregon, if a funeral home holds a body for more than 10 days, then they must report it to the mortuary board.

Need a Top-Rated Funeral Home in Austin? Contact Green Cremation Texas

We hope this article helped you learn how long a funeral home can hold a body. As you can see most funeral homes can hold a body indefinitely – but there will likely be holding fees.

So, if you can you should speed the process up by finding a reliable funeral home that can deal with the paperwork. If you recently lost a loved one and you need help planning a funeral, then look no further than Green Cremation.

We are the first environmentally-friendly funeral company that offers reduced-emissions cremations and water cremation. To learn more about the two services, contact our company today and get in touch with one of our representatives.

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Marlaena Gonzales

Funeral Director
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