Most people are under the assumption that embalming is a state requirement. Most funeral homes will require embalming if you plan on a public viewing. But embalming is not legally required if burial or cremation occurs shortly after death, usually within 24 hours.
According to the Federal Trade Commission’s 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, which 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.
If a body must be transported across state lines or viewing is delayed for several days, most states require embalming. The Funeral Consumer Alliance has information on each state’s funeral and burial laws.