Can You Be Buried in Your Own Backyard?

The tradition of laying loved ones to rest in a personal, sacred space at home is regaining popularity.

This practice offers a deeply personal, eco-friendly alternative to the conventional funeral service, aligning with the growing green movement.

The question, “Can you or a loved one be buried in your own backyard?” invites us into a discussion filled with legal, emotional, and practical considerations.

Legal Landscape of Home Burials

  • Legality Across States: Across the United States, the legality of home burials varies. While most states allow burials on private property, California, Indiana, Washington, and the District of Columbia impose strict restrictions or outright bans. For instance, California’s strict laws could result in hefty fines for unauthorized home burials.

  • Local Zoning and Regulations: The legal allowance at the state level doesn’t automatically grant permission for a backyard burial. Local zoning laws may introduce additional requirements, such as specific distances from water sources, buildings, and property lines, which could make home burials challenging in more densely populated areas.

  • Historical and Cultural Context: Before the establishment of funeral homes in the mid-1800s, American families frequently buried their deceased on family land. This custom has diminished over time as professional funeral services became the standard. Today, as we seek more sustainable and meaningful end-of-life options, the tradition of home burials is experiencing a revival.

Planning and Preparing for Home Burial

  • Role of Next of Kin: The next of kin plays a crucial role in arranging home burials, assuming responsibility for the deceased’s body. This includes organizing ceremonies and managing the burial without necessarily involving professional funeral services.

  • Preparation Steps: Considering a home burial necessitates a careful review of state and local laws to ensure compliance. Open discussions with family members are essential to garner support and consensus for the burial plans.

  • Funeral Director Involvement: In some states, the law mandates involvement of a funeral director for certain tasks, such as filing the death certificate or transporting the body. However, many jurisdictions allow families to manage these responsibilities independently.

Practical Considerations for Home Burials

  • Selecting a Burial Site: Choosing a suitable burial site on your property requires thoughtful consideration of environmental and zoning restrictions to ensure the site’s permanence and respectability.

  • Grave Digging and Site Preparation: Preparing a grave involves more than just digging; it requires understanding the proper depth to prevent disturbances and ensuring the site’s stability and respectability over time.

  • Casket Considerations: While traditional caskets are an option, many families now consider eco-friendly alternatives, such as biodegradable caskets or shrouds, reflecting the deceased’s and the family’s environmental values.

  • Memorials and Maintenance: Creating a memorial at the burial site serves as a lasting tribute to the deceased. Regular maintenance ensures the site remains a dignified and beautiful space for reflection and remembrance.

  • Eco-Friendly and Ethical Considerations: The shift towards green burials emphasizes minimal environmental impact, avoiding embalming chemicals and non-biodegradable burial containers, thereby fostering a natural return to the earth.

Legal Documentation and Future Implications

  • Mandatory Easement Creation: Establishing a burial site on private property effectively creates a cemetery, necessitating legal documentation, such as easements, to ensure future access to the gravesite.

  • Property Value and Sale: The presence of a burial site can influence property value and sale prospects. Potential sellers must consider these factors and disclose the site’s existence to prospective buyers.


Home burials present a meaningful alternative to traditional funeral services, allowing families to honor their loved ones in a personal, sustainable manner. 

While navigating the legal and practical aspects requires diligence, the result can be a deeply fulfilling and eco-conscious tribute.

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