Regulations on Funerals, Burials and Cremation in Washington State
Funeral Information

Rules and Regulations on Funerals, Burials and Cremation in Washington State

Truth be told, we're never quite ready for the death of someone in our family. When a death occurs, not only do we need to manage our strong emotions, but we also have to make the funeral arrangements.

Some rules and regulations are similar among states, but there are plenty of specific rules as well. If you have to take care of a funeral in Washington, the following guide will be more than useful.

What steps should you follow to obtain a death certificate in Washington?

How to obtain death certificate in Washington

In the state of Washington, you have three days after death to file with the local registrar for the death certificate. You need to register for the document before the body is cremated or buried. Asking the person/organization in charge of the funeral is the most straightforward method for obtaining the death certificate. For instance, you will need about ten certified copies if you’re also the executor of the estate.

For sure, you will need more than one certified copy of the death certificate for various reasons. When you're going to take care of the deceased's personal affairs, you will definitely need several certified copies of the death certificate.

Every time you will ask for benefits or claim a property belonging to the deceased, you will have to present a certified copy of the death certificate. Social Security benefits, life insurance processes, veteran benefits, Payable on death accounts are only some of the many scenarios when the certified copy is needed.

At the moment, Washington is undergoing the setup of an electronic system for death registration. A paper death certificate is still available. The death certificate can be filed and issued the same day, and you can also get copies the same day. 

Death certificate in Washington footer

Can you still ask for a copy after the time of death has passed?

Even if the time of death has passed, you may still obtain a copy of the death certificate. You need to check the Washington State Department of Health website for the details. Simply download a mail-in order form or get the info you need on how to get it by phone, in person, or even online.  

You will pay $20 for every copy of the death certificate in Washington.

Who has the legal right to file for a death certificate in Washington?

Unlike most states, Washington considers that death certificates are public records. Needless to say, any person has the possibility of asking for a certified copy of a death certificate.

Who’s lawfully allowed to fill in the death certificate?

The funeral director will complete the death certificate while utilizing the info from the medical professionals and the next of kin. The funeral director has the responsibility to gather personal information about the deceased from the next of kin. He/she also needs to obtain the medical certification from the medical professional possessing info on death.

It’s also common for the physician caring for the deceased in the end to fill in the medical certificate, naming the cause of death.

If the person dies without medical supervision, the medical examiner/health officer/coroner or prosecuting attorney authorized by the law has to write down the cause of death.

The medical certification must be electronically certified or signed within two days of obtaining the death certificate.

Can burial or cremation take place in Washington without a casket?

Most of the time, the most significant investment in a funeral is the casket. With prices for caskets beginning at $1000 and going as expensive as $20,000, we understand why people look for the alternatives. The funeral homes usually have a high markup on the caskets, so buying the casket online could be a good idea, which can save you $1000 - $2000.

See our selection of caskets, shipped fast throughout the entire Washington State.

buy a casket online


No Washington law requires you to use a casket for burial. However, the cemetery of your choice may have strict rules about the casket you can use. You shouldn’t buy the casket if you don’t have enough information.  


Anyone considering cremation as a final disposition of the body also should think about the cremation casket/alternative container. Federal law asks the crematory/funeral home to present you the alternative containers. You have to make sure that the cremation caskets are available to you. Nine times out of ten, pressed wood, unfinished wood, cardboard, or fiberboard are the materials used for alternative containers.

Does the Washington law request you to buy the casket exclusively from the funeral home?

Not only that, you don't need to buy the casket from the funeral home, but the federal law is requiring funeral homes to accept caskets bought elsewhere.

Online retailers provide an impressive variety of models and attractive prices, covering budgets of all sizes. You can easily check how much do caskets cost from your home or mobile device any time. 

trending funeral caskets

Do the laws request embalming in Washington?

In the state of Washington, embalming is mandatory until cremation or burial occurs. Refrigeration can also be used.

The embalmer needs the approval from the family member/legal representative of the deceased before proceeding with the embalming. The funeral director must inform the family or the representative of the dead that no laws require embalming unless the state board of health recommends otherwise.

Washington laws permit you to wash, cloth, anoint, pray over, read to, sing, view and accompany the deceased in any form for no more than 24 hours, when you're not using a funeral director. However, the local health officer has to permit you.

Dry ice and refrigeration can preserve the body for a short amount of time.

How do you figure out which funeral home/cremation provider is your ideal option?

Not only that dealing with funeral arrangements is nerve and time consuming, but you will also have to address some problems for the very first time.

You should always choose a funeral home/cremation provider that can sustain your requirements and doesn’t empty your wallet either.

Luckily for people in Washington, there are more than 400 funeral homes in the state. You only need to know the type of funeral you want, the services, and the individual requests you may have for the funeral. Ask around and consider more options before making any decision.

As you’re scrolling through the numerous options, you notice that the funeral homes and cremation providers are shown according to the city and zip code order. The selection process shouldn’t take very long.  

What are the essential criteria when deciding between cremation and burial?

It's one of the most important decisions to make when it comes to preparing a funeral. Knowing which form of final disposal you will have can help choose the funeral home.

It's a personal choice when it comes to cremation or burial. On the side note, more than 70% of the residents in Washington go with cremation. On top of everything else, cremation is less expensive than conventional funeral. It’s also more environmentally-friendly than a traditional burial.

Do you need specific permits for cremation in Washington?

The Disposition Authorization must be filled in before cremation takes place. You may include the step in your preplanning or sign a disposition form. Otherwise, the next of kin may complete the requested type.

Moreover, many crematories will ask you to use a funeral director for preparing cremation. Otherwise, you have to be positively sure that the crematory accepts the body straight from the family.

Keep in mind that some counties in Washington ask for the local cremation permits. Get in touch with the local health department/medical examiner to see if your country is requesting additional authorization.

Is direct cremation lawful in Washington?

With direct cremation as the most affordable option for the final disposition of the body, it's legal to arrange a direct cremation in the state of Washington.

Do the Washington regulations require you to hire a funeral director?

Washington state funeral regulations

Washington doesn’t ask you to hire a licensed funeral director for completing the funeral preparations. Additionally, all states let you take care of the body at home after death.

Who is legally responsible for handling the body in Washington?

In the state of Washington, the following people are legally allowed to control the disposition of the human remains:

  • The person authorized by the deceased in a certified written document
  • The spouse or the registered domestic partner
  • Most of the surviving family members and adult children
  • The surviving parents of the deceased
  • The surviving siblings
  • The court-appointed guardian

Does Washington law allow the home burial?

In the state of Washington, you can only bury a body in a settled cemetery. The cemeteries also work on cemetery corporations.

How much money should you put aside for funeral or cremation in Washington?

In the state of Washington, a traditional funeral can cost you anything from $5,500, whereas cremation starts at $2,400. Direct cremation starts at $1,000 and doesn't go much higher than $1,500.

It all depends on the additional expenses for the funeral and the type of funeral ceremony you wish to have. Keep in mind that the funeral law obliges the funeral home to provide you the general price list (GPL). It's a list displaying costs for funeral services and merchandise for the funeral.

Prices may vary a lot, which is why you should ask around and have several options before deciding on the funeral home.

Is it legal to preplan the funeral/cremation in Washington?

Preplanning is a considerate and effective method to help your surviving family throughout the emotional and financial challenges that a funeral brings.

When it comes to preneed funeral contracts, it's only the certified funeral homes with a certificate of registration legal to sell them. An insurance policy or trust fund is the standard way for funding the preneed funeral contracts.

Since not all people trust the preneed funeral contracts, it makes sense that some would create a document with their funeral requests. If so, they put money aside in funds such as POD (payable on death) accounts or Totten Trust. For many, it’s the safest choice for preplanning the funeral.

Does Washington state provide financial help for people in need?

Does Washington state provide financial help for funerals

The persons who qualify will receive a $255 death payment. Veterans and their dependents may also enjoy financial help from Washington state.

Should you accomplish all the licensing requests to creating a cemetery, you can bury the body on private property. The funeral director must show the filled-in death certificate to the local registrar when asking for the burial-transit permit. Next, he/she will provide the license to the person responsible for the burial. The consent can also be attached to the container transporting the body to another place for burial.  


What’s the best way to obtain the permit for transporting the body?

You need a burial-transit permit from the local registrar for moving the body to another location for final disposal. You have three days after death for obtaining permission; obviously, it has to be before the final disposition of the body.

What are the Washington laws on storing/spreading the cremated remains?

No Washington law obliges you to store or spread the ashes to a particular manner. You may keep the cremated remains in a niche, crypt, grave, or container at home.

With ashes considered to be harmless, they don’t pose a risk for public health when scattered. Rely on your common sense and make sure that the ashes won't be evident to other people when spreading.

Public land

Even though it's not forbidden, it's safe to find out the city and county regulations and zoning rules before spreading ashes on local public property.

The Washington State Department of Licensing mentions that cremated remains have to be spread on state trust uplands when having permission from the regional manager. Use your best judgment before spreading the ashes, nevertheless.

Federal property

Typically, permission is required before spreading ashes on federal property. As long as the ceremony is quiet and away from roads, trails, waterways, and facilities, you will get permission to spread the ashes.

Private land

If the land the property, you may spread the ashes whenever you want. If somebody else owns the ground, you should get their permission before spreading the ashes.

Settled scattering garden

A good number of cemeteries ensure gardens for spreading ashes. Check with the cemetery representative to find out their regulations on scattering the cremated remains.

At sea

Should you intend to spread the ashes at sea, you have to be at least three nautical miles away from the land. Scattering the ashes in wading pools or at beaches is prohibited by the EPA. Also, you have 30 days to inform the EPA about spreading ashes at sea.

Waterways controlled by the state

The Washington State Department of Licensing reminds that it’s lawful to spread cremated remains over public navigable waters controlled by the state. The permission also refers to Puget Sound, lakes, rivers, and streams.


The state of Washington allows scattering of ashes from Washington state scheduled ferries, but you need to give a 3-5 days notice.

You may have ceremonies only outside the peaking sailing times, as long as the weather conditions are appropriate. The cremated remains have to be in a biodegradable container that is easy to dispose of. You need to have a member of the WSF joining the ceremony to the aft of the ferry, into the limited access area. It's easier for casting the container into the water. The horn may be sounded, but it's up to the captain to do it or not.

By air

The federal aviation laws forbid dropping objects that could alter properties or harm people. The ashes aren’t harmful, and you need to be careful when removing them from the container.

Frequently Asked Questions about Funerals in the State of Washington

Q: Can you send flowers to the funeral home in Washington?

A: Funeral flowers are part of traditional funerals. You can use flowers for showing your feelings, love, and empathy for those suffering. Typically, the deceased's family will prepare a casket spray, but anyone may add floral arrangements, wreaths, or standing sprays.

The funeral director may also provide floral services, but be ready to spend more. It's additional spending that will increase the expenses with the funeral home.

Q: Are there specific requests regarding the burial and cemetery plots in Washington?

A: Every cemetery is licensed by the state, but we also find individual cemeteries that provide their specific regulations.

Q: Do you need to buy a vault in Washington?

A: No law requires you to use a vault. That's not the case of cemeteries, though, and every cemetery may state the mandatory use of a vault. On the side note, the vault reduces the risk of subsidence and maintains the ground in good shape.

Q: Is it legal to have a home funeral or a green burial in Washington?

A: In the state of Washington, it’s lawful to have a home funeral or a green funeral. There are several funeral companies and organizations that guide home death care. They also help with green burial.

Unless you're registering your private property as a cemetery, you won't be able to bury the body on your private land in Washington. If so, you also have to pay a $25,000 perpetual care fund.

Q: Can you have alkaline hydrolysis in the state of Washington?

A: At the moment, there are no laws or regulations regarding alkaline hydrolysis in the state of Washington.

Alkaline hydrolysis is a process reducing the body to bones and liquids. It uses less energy and doesn’t generate waste material into the atmosphere, which makes it greener than cremation.

Q: Are veterans enjoying benefits in Washington?

A: A VA cemetery is found in Kent, and veterans can have the internment and the grave marker for free.   Some dependants may not pay either.

A state-run veterans cemetery is established in Medical lake, but a fee has to be paid to inter a spouse or dependent.

Veterans need to check the local VA office for more details. Every county provides a specific indigent burial program, with benefits and requests varying from one county to another.

On the cause of the state of the economy, the funds for the provision are limited. An only direct cremation is eligible to fund with county resources.

Q: What procedure to follow when someone dies away from Washington?

A: Sometimes, the person dies away from Washington, but you still wish to have the final disposal in Washington. If that’s the case for you, you need to hire a mortuary shipper at the place of death. He/she will take care of the deceased, complete the required documentation, and prepare shipping to the funeral home in Washington.

The service of shipping alone can cost you anything from $3,000 to $4,000 without the funeral arrangements at home. If this sounds too expensive for you, a direct cremation at the place of death is a good choice. you may ship the ashes to Washington later on.

Q: Do the Washington laws allow whole-body donations?

A: in the state of Washington, you have the legal right to donate your body to science. The University of Washington’s School of Medicine is one non-profit organization accepting bodies.

Once the donation is completed, the cremated remains are buried in the community plot at Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery. The family can also receive the cremated remains.

Keep in mind that not all donations are accepted, so make sure you get all the information.

Q: How did COVID-19 affect the funerals in the state of Washington?

A: Public gatherings are banned on the cause of coronavirus, and funeral ceremonies make no exception. Viewings, memorials, sitting shiva, graveside services, ritual cleansing, and military honors are forbidden at the moment in the state of Washington.

Q: Do people have access to virtual funerals in Washington?

A: At the moment, families have virtual funerals. An invitation-only page on Facebook is created, and the ceremony is broadcasted later on. The number of people attending the virtual memorial is unlimited, but the service still has to respect some government requests. The music is prerecorded, and only the funeral director and the deceased are present.

Q: What are the steps to take when complaining about a funeral home in Washington?

A: Even if most of the funeral homes are reliable and don't disappoint their clients, accidents do happen. If you don't manage to solve your problem with the funeral director, you can file a complaint to the Washington State Department of Licensing.  Moreover, you can have a talk with the local funeral director association, but only if the specified funeral home is also a member of the association.  The funeral is always very expensive, fortunately, now people can apply for the funeral reimbursement program to get part of the money back.


   Blog Author: Tim 

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