Laws and Regulations on Funerals and cremation in Colorado
Funeral Information

Rules and Regulations on Funerals, Burials and Cremation in the State of Colorado

Preparing a funeral isn't easy, and there are so many things to take care of besides dealing with your grief. Identifying the right funeral director, or following the steps when you want to take care of the funeral on your own isn't an effortless job at all.

The following guide will walk you through the main steps and present you with the most important rules and regulations on funerals and cremation in Colorado. You never know when you need it the most.

What steps you need to take for obtaining the death certificate in Colorado

How to obain Death certificate in Colorado

In the state of Colorado, you have five days for registering the death with the state or local vital records. Obviously, you have to do it before the body is cremated or buried. Most of the time, the mortuary, the funeral home, cremation organization, or the person managing the deceased's remains take the steps for filing the death certificate.

Why do you need more than one copy?

There are numerous situations where a copy of the death certificate will be required. You can keep it for personal records, but if you're managing the deceased's own affairs, you will need a lot more than one copy. Every time you're going to claim some benefits of properties for the dead, you would have to present a copy of the death certificate. Social Security benefits, life insurance processes, veteran benefits, or payable on death accounts are some of the many scenarios when a copy of the death certificate is needed.

An effortless way to get copies of the death certificate is to remind the organization filing the death certificate to provide you with copies. If you're named the executor of the estate, you will need more than ten copies.

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Can you get copies after the time of death?

It’s not impossible to need copies of the death certificate a long time after the time of death. If so, you can get in touch with the health department in the county where the demise happened. Another solution is to go to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment website. Downloading a mail-in order form or ordering the death certificate online is the next step to take.

How much will you pay? What papers do you need?

You will pay $20 for the first certified copy of the death certificate in Colorado. Every single other copy afterward is going to be $13.

An ID photo issued by the government or any other legal form of identification will is needed to order the death certificate.

Who’s lawfully responsible for completing the death certificate?

The physician who took care of the deceased for the sickness or health condition, causing the death, will fill in the medical section of the certificate. He/she only has 48 hours for filling in the medical certificate. When it's necessary to inquiry about the cause of death, the coroner will identify the cause and fill in the medical certification. He/she will have 48 hours to do it.

Sometimes, the coroner or physician will need more than 48 hours for identifying the cause of death, in which case he/she has to present the funeral director with the reason for the delay. Unless the coroner or any other official will authorize it, the body cannot be released.

Who is legally entitled to ask for the death certificate in Colorado?

Only a person related to the deceased or able to prove that they have a legal interest in the death certificate is lawful to request the death certificate. Here are the persons who qualify:

  • The former or current spouse
  • Parents or stepparents of the deceased
  • Grandparent and even great grandparent
  • Sibling of the deceased
  • Adult child/step-child, grandchild or great-grandchild
  • The legal representative of the deceased
  • An agent with power from the attorney
  • Aunt, uncle, nephew, niece, cousin, or in-law
  • Probate creditor, researcher, and employer of the deceased
  • A beneficiary of the deceased
  • A representative of the insurance company where the deceased owned an account

The paper you need to present, and the entire list of persons able to ask for the certificate are found on the CDPHE website.

How much money does a funeral cost in Colorado?

Expect to pay $7,000 for a traditional funeral in Colorado, and seven times less for simple cremation. Keep in mind that the spending for a funeral can increase from all the incremental and additional expenses. Embalming, a sophisticated casket, extensive funeral transport, along with flowers, funeral stationery, or obituary notices, can get the final cost over $10,000.

For instance, you can pay around $3,000 for a funeral followed by cremation, whereas direct cremation is about $900.

What financial solutions are available for funerals in Colorado?

One thing you can do for your surviving family is to prepare the funeral as much as you can before the time of death. You don't want to add more stress to your family members. Additionally, you don't want them to fight when making decisions, either. The last thing you want to add is the financial burden of covering funeral spending.

Taking care of the financial aspects of the funeral is going to make it easier for everyone involved. You may check to see the funeral services in your area and decide on which you wish to have. Putting some money aside is a sage thing to do.

Pre-need funeral/burial insurance

You can also buy a pre-need funeral plan or burial insurance. You can find several insurance companies ensuring  burial insurance, and even funeral homes in Colorado are certified for providing their clients pre-need plans. Therefore, you pay for the funeral on "layaway", and your wishes will be accomplished. Additionally, your family won't have to deal with the stress of making decisions or paying for the funeral.

You need to think about the price for specific types of funerals, but also the interest to the benefit of the trusts/corporation managing the funds.

All in all, you should have a plan and put some money aside, letting your family know about it.

Can you get aid with the funeral spending in Colorado?

In Colorado, families who meet the requirements can ask for a one-time social security death benefit. It’s $255 payable to the family. People may access the help through the Social Security Administration, and the benefit will be offered on social security taxes paid.

No matter where you are in life, a funeral also means high expenses, and it's incredibly difficult for families in need. A direct cremation is the most affordable option for the final disposition, but some families cannot even afford that.

Many funeral homes provide professional and caring service, guiding people to prepare a fixed budget funeral.

Hospices and nursing homes

We should highlight that many nursing homes and hospices ask their patients to possess burial insurance or a pre-need plan before accepting them. It's also common for the nursing homes/hospices to recommend a funeral home, but patients should still shop around. The prices may vary from one funeral home to another, and you don't want to overpay.

What matters when choosing between cremation and burial?

Choosing between cremation and burial in Colorado

It's probably the very first thing to think about when it comes to the end of your life. Many funeral products and services add to the matter, which only makes the process more complicated.  

The cremation rate in Colorado is 60%, which is quite high. There is more than just one type of cremation services, from the most basic kind (the direct cremation with no facilities), to the cremation with a full service and ashes interment.

Should you decide to have a burial, don’t forget you need to consider the spending for the grave marker, burial plot, type of casket, and embalming. Even if no Colorado law obliges, the cemeteries may ask you to purchase the vault liner for your cemetery plot. Every single funeral product and service that you choose will increase the final spending with thousands of dollars.

Colorado is the single state in the US where the open-air funeral pyre is possible. You can have outdoor "natural" cremation in the San Luis Valley in Southern Colorado if that's your final decision.

Can one have alkaline hydrolysis in Colorado?

It was 2011 when the state of Colorado made the alkaline hydrolysis legal. Alkaline hydrolysis is a particular chemical process reducing the body to liquids and bone. It doesn’t utilize much energy, not produce matter into the atmosphere. Therefore, it’s a greener option than traditional cremation.

In the state of Colorado, people can pre-plan cremation and ask for alkaline hydrolysis from a provider. For those with pets, we should also note that a provider is ensuring AH for deceased pets.

Is the use of a casket mandatory in Colorado?

Let's highlight that the casket can be the most expensive product in a funeral. Even if the price for a simple casket starts at around $1000, and the casket prices can go as high as $20,000. This is why people often buying a casket not at the funeral home but from the third-party casket companies, or online.

See our selection of caskets, shipped fast throughout Colorado.



No Colorado law requires you to use a casket for burial. Even so, the cemetery of your choice could have specific rules about the use of casket, so make sure you check with a representative before buying the casket.


The federal law asks the crematory/funeral home to present you the cremation caskets or alternative containers. They’re also obliged by the law to give the chance of buying the cremation casket. The majority of alternative containers are made with pressed wood, unfinished wood, cardboard, or fiberwood.

Is it legal to buy the casket from a third party and not from the funeral home?

No Colorado law states that you can only buy the casket from the funeral home. By all means, the federal law asks the funeral homes to accept caskets that clients have purchased from a third party. Online retailers provide an impressive variety of models, for prices that match all budgets. Building the casket is also legal.

What’s the best way to locate a funeral home in Colorado?

People looking for a funeral home in Colorado should access one of the several funeral home directories available online or offline. It contains every funeral home in Colorado, and you can search them by Zip code and other criteria.

What matters the most when buying a casket in Colorado?

The Funeral Law is also available in Colorado, so the funeral homes must provide you their General Price List (GPL), which contains the prices for every item or service that they offer. Besides, you can get a copy of the GPL and buy the casket from a third party, which is almost always cheaper. Even if you buy the casket elsewhere, the funeral home has to receive the casket.

Where is it legal to bury bodies in the state of Colorado?

The majority of bodies are buried in settled cemeteries, but no Colorado law forbids you to bury the body on private land.

The immediate burial, or "direct burial" is allowed in State of Colorado. Keep in mind that burials on private property need to be registered with the county clerk in just 30 days. The coroner or the county record will offer a form for registering. The person managing the deceased or the funeral director must also achieve authorization for disposing of the body (no matter if it’s cremation or burial) before proceeding. The coroner or the county health unit will typically release the authorization.

Where is it legal to bury bodies in the state of Colorado

Additionally, the local governments may also have specific rules on private burials. Always check with the city zoning and county rules before burying a body on private property or setting up a family cemetery.

Does the Colorado law require one to have embalming?

In Colorado, when the body will not be cremated/buried within 24 hours, embalming or refrigeration becomes mandatory.

If you wish to transport the body outside the state by a common carrier (such as train or plane), the body must be embalmed. Shipping the body in a tightly sealed container can also work as a solution.

Colorado is the only state that doesn’t ask for licensure for crematories and funeral homes. Regardless of the aspect, the funeral home businesses are obliged to run on the regulations on how to dispose the human remains.

What papers have to be filled in for cremation?

The immediate next of kin is required to sign the Cremation Authorization Form before the cremation happens. The authorization is fundamental for a legal disposition of the remains. When you want to have a cremation, you can pre-sign the Cremation Authorization Form when making pre-arrangements. It's going to save your family problems with a lot of pain.

Is there a waiting period before cremation takes place in Colorado?

Just like in many states, there’s a 24 hour waiting period in Colorado after death and before cremation takes place. However, preparing all the papers for obtaining the permit to cremate will take around three days.

Once the process is over, the family will receive the remains after some weeks.  If required, the expedited service can be arranged.

Is it difficult to prepare a direct cremation in Colorado?

With so many people struggling financially today, it's understandable why so many of them are looking for more affordable options for the final disposition of the human remains.

A direct cremation is, by far, the least expensive option. The body is cremated without any ceremony or services, and there are no complicated ceremonies included. The funeral costs remain low, and the direct cremation means a direct and dignified method for final disposition of the human remains.

Some families still want to have a memorial service after they receive the cremated remains.

What are the legal aspects of storing/spreading the ashes in Colorado?

Even if your common sense and judgment should be used when spreading the ashes in Colorado, there aren't many laws on scattering the cremated remains on private, public, or federal properties. In the state of Colorado, there are several organizations ensuring ash spreading services. Pike's Peak or the Rocky Mountain National Park are some of the most popular places to scatter the cremated remains.

Storing the cremated remains in a niche, crypt, grave, or even a container at home is quite common. With ashes being considered harmless, they don’t present a risk for public health in any way.  

Private property

You can spread the ashes on your private property. If you don't own the land, it's better that you ask for permission from the owner.

Public land

If you want to spread the ashes on public property, you should check the city and county regulations before. It's common for people to use their judgment when spreading the ashes on public land.

Settled scattering garden

Numerous cemeteries offer gardens for spreading the cremated remains. Talk to a representative from the graveyard to find out the details.

Federal property

In theory, you need permission before spreading the cremated remains on federal land. As long as your ceremony is quite and you spread the ashes away from trails, roads, waterways, and facilities, you shouldn’t have difficulties when asking for permission.

At sea

You must go three nautical miles from land when spreading ashes, according to the federal Clean Water Act. When the container doesn't decompose quickly, you have to dispose of it separately.

Spreading the ashes in wading pools or at beaches isn’t allowed by the EPA. You also need to inform the EPA about scattering the ashes within 30 days.

It's also required by the law to obtain a permit for inland water burial. The state agency managing the waterway will provide the license.

By air

Truth be told, no state laws forbid you to spread the ashes by air, but the federal aviation laws regulate it. Therefore, it's not permitted to throw any objects that may injure people or affect properties. The cremated remains don't pose a risk for public health, and you just need to be careful about the container before spreading.

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Frequently Asked Questions on funeral issues in Colorado

Q: What can you do if the loved one dies far from Colorado?

A: Many Coloradans go on vacation in the winter or move for the job away from home. Therefore, it's understandable why people die away from Colorado. Dealing with the trauma at the time of death is incredibly difficult, and it’s even more challenging when it happens away from home.

Also, if shipping the body inside the state or outside the U.S. is possible, the expenses are very high. The professional fee for the funeral director to handle the collection of the body at the place of death, making the arrangements for shipping, and solving the documentation can go over $3,000. Be aware that the sum doesn’t even contain the freight charge.

Therefore, many people opt for cremating the body at the place of death, shipping the ashes later on.

Q: What benefits do the Colorado laws offer to veterans?

A: If a veteran or spouse of a veteran dies, the Veterans Administration can assist. The veterans who were honorably discharged obtain a burial in the national/state veteran cemetery. This benefit alone can reduce funeral spending a lot.

The national veteran's grave in Colorado is located at Fort Logan in Denver, whereas Grand Junction is home for the state cemetery “Veterans Memorial Cemetery of Western Colorado."

Every county in Colorado has Veterans Service Offices, guiding people when requesting for veteran’s benefits.

Q: Does the Colorado law allow for whole-body donation?

A: More and more people find it very challenging to cover the expenses even for direct cremation, so "no-cost" cremation is an alternative for many. Therefore, the family offers the body to an anatomical gift program, which ensures "free" cremation in return. Cremation takes place after the body donation is completed.

However, donating the body for medical research and science is a fantastic way to give something back, and the elimination of funeral expenses is merely an extra-benefit.

Q: What legal steps should you follow when complaining about a funeral home in Colorado?

A: In all fairness, the majority of funeral homes are reliable and don't disappoint their clients. However, accidents may happen.

Should you have a complaint about the funeral services ensured by a funeral home, the first step to take is to talk with the funeral director. If you cannot agrees, you should proceed with getting in touch with the Colorado Funeral Directors Association (CFDA), which is a voluntary trade association.

Getting in touch with the Funeral Consumer Society of Colorado is another viable option. They’re another non-profit organization certified by the National Funeral Consumers Alliance, supporting the consumer rights when purchasing funeral products and services in the state of Colorado.

  Blog Author: Tim 

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