Getting Started

Whenever somebody dies, does a death certificate descend from heaven?

Actually, no, that is not the case. Either a Funeral Director or Next of Kin or Somebody designated in the will of the deceased or otherwise identified in writing (e.g. Power of Attorney) must complete a death certificate and file it with the Local Office of Vital Statistics in the county where death occurred.  

Do I need a Funeral Director?

A funeral director is not required. The next of kin or someone legally designated by them (see note) will need to get a death certificate from the local registrar either in the county where the person died or from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). The certificate must be completed and signed by the attending doctor. Note: unless a person is legally named by the deceased in a will, court order or legal document to take care of funeral arrangements all permits will need to be issued to the next of kin or his designee. If the person is named in such a document, Boulder County Public Health (BCPH) will need to make a copy of that portion of the document which gives the person authority to act in this matter or BCPH will need to have something in writing from the next of kin authorizing the person to make the funeral arrangements. The completed death certificate will need to be filed with the local registrar in the county of death. That office will then issue a permit for the body’s disposition.

Do I need to embalm a body?

Embalming is not required if disposal is within 24 hours. However, a dead human body or fetus kept more than 24 hours before burial or cremation MUST be embalmed or properly refrigerated.

What kind of casket do I need to buy?

The requirement is not specific concerning type or brand of container used to contain the body or fetus. The intent is to preserve the public health and the dignity with which the dead human body is treated. The dead human body or fetus must be in a "tightly sealed container that will prevent the leakage of fluids or odor."

Do I need to work with a funeral home?

No, you do not. If you have any reservations, Natural Transitions is a non-profit that advocates for home funerals.

Can a body be buried anywhere?

There is no requirement that a dead human body or fetus be buried in an established cemetery. Bodies or fetuses may be buried on private land unless local ordinances prohibit it. An affidavit must be filled out and registered with the County Clerk and Recorder of each County where the property is situated.

Can I cremate a body on my own property?

Prior to cremation the fire protection district where it will take place should be contacted for their approval and a Burning Permit along with Disposition Permit obtained from Boulder County Public Health. The following recommendations are from Crist Mortuary based on their experience handling open-air cremations:

  1. The burning site should be zoned Agricultural or perhaps Forest.
  2. The site should have an adequate clearing to accommodate the cremation.
  3. Arrangements should be made for an engine company from the fire protection district to be standing by on site during the cremation.
  1. The body should be transported by hearse or ambulance to the cremation site.
  2. A hard wood such as oak will need to be used for the fire fuel. The fire will need to be to be started with a clean burning fuel such as white gas or kerosene. The fire needs to burn at 1300-1800 F.
  1. The fire will need to be built in a pit dug in the ground that will contain the heat, wood and ashes but allow the body to sit on top of the wood at ground level if the responsible party desires. The fire cannot exceed ground level. If the responsible party wants to have a pyre, someone with experience building funeral pyres such as a mortuary would need to be retained to oversee the cremation.
  2. If the responsible party wants to bury the remains after cremation, at the site of the cremation, applicable zoning laws should be determined prior to burial of the cremated remains.
If the body will be cremated on private property in Boulder County, a Disposition Permit will not be issued unless a Burning Permit has first been obtained from Boulder County Public Health/Environmental Health.

What about the ashes?

Cremation is considered "final disposition" and the State retains no control over disposition of the ashes. Ashes may be disposed of as the next of kin desires except for any restriction by local ordinances. It is important to check any federal, county or local laws and ordinances first before disposing of remains.