Q. What is embalming?

A. Many funeral homes require embalming if you’re planning a viewing or visitation. But embalming generally is not necessary or legally required if the body is buried or cremated shortly after death.

Eliminating this service can save you hundreds of dollars. Under the Funeral Rule, a funeral provider:

  • May not provide embalming services without permission.

  • May not falsely state that embalming is required by law.

  • Must disclose in writing that embalming is not required by law, except in certain special cases.

  • May not charge a fee for unauthorized embalming unless embalming is required by state law.

  • Must disclose in writing that you usually have the right to choose a disposition, such as direct cremation or immediate burial, that does not require embalming if you do not want this service.

  • Must disclose in writing that some funeral arrangements, such as a funeral with viewing, may make embalming a practical necessity and, if so, a required purchase.

Return to Frequently Asked Questions about Funerals.

Aug. 30, 2005.