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Can you keep an embalmed body in your house?

Quick Answer

In most cases, it is not legal to keep an embalmed body in a private residence. There are regulations and laws surrounding the handling and storage of human remains that generally prohibit keeping a body at home for an extended period. However, there may be some exceptions in certain circumstances or with special permits. The legal requirements vary by state and municipality.


Embalming is the process of preserving human remains by replacing blood and bodily fluids with specialized chemicals. It is commonly done to prepare bodies for viewing at funerals and memorial services. While embalming slows down decomposition, it does not completely halt it. An embalmed body will eventually break down over time.

Most laws prohibit keeping embalmed bodies in private residences. Human remains are considered potential biohazards and need to be stored and handled properly to avoid health risks. Here are some key reasons why embalmed bodies cannot remain at home:

Sanitation and Health Concerns

Even with embalming, human remains can still harbor bacteria, viruses, and other disease-causing agents. Bodily fluids may continue to seep from the body as tissues break down over time. This creates a health hazard if the body is kept in an occupied home without proper sanitary conditions. Proper storage requires features such as drainage pipes, sanitizing fluid catchments, and ventilation systems.

Odor and Decomposition

While the embalming process delays decomposition, it does not stop it indefinitely. An embalmed body will eventually start to break down, creating powerful, disturbing odors. The smell can make it difficult for people to live in the home and compromise property values. Decomposition can also attract insects and scavengers over time.

Zoning and Legal Restrictions

Most residential areas are not zoned for storing deceased bodies. Human remains are typically only allowed on property that is zoned for cemeteries, mortuaries, and other death care services. Storing a body at home could violate local zoning ordinances. Additionally, state and local laws outline handling and storage requirements for human remains. Keeping an embalmed body at home is unlikely to meet the necessary regulations.

Emotional Difficulties

Having an embalmed loved one at home may cause additional emotional turmoil for family and friends. The constant visual reminder and lack of closure can prolong and complicate the grieving process. Public health laws limiting home storage provide distance and finality.

Are There Any Exceptions?

While laws generally prohibit it, there are a few exceptional cases where an embalmed body may be kept at home for a limited time:

– With a permit – Some states allow next-of-kin to acquire temporary permits to keep remains at home before burial or cremation. Permits outline handling methods, storage time limits, and other requirements.

– For a wake or viewing – It may be permissible to hold a short private viewing in a home with the appropriate preparations and permissions. But the body cannot remain for more than a day or two.

– Religious or cultural practices – There may be some rare exceptions for certain religious or ethnic groups to temporarily store remains at home for ritual practices. Significant health and sanitation measures are still required.

– Legal disputes – If there is a dispute over a deceased person’s remains, they may be kept by next-of-kin while legal proceedings are underway. A court order is likely needed in these situations.

Even in these exceptional cases, an embalmed body can typically not be stored at home indefinitely. There are strict time limits and oversight involved.

Proper Storage of Embalmed Bodies

Since private homes are not suitable environments, embalmed bodies must be stored in authorized facilities such as:

Funeral Homes

Licensed funeral directors have access to cooling facilities, preparation rooms, and other specialized equipment to properly store and manage embalmed remains.


Some cemeteries have mausoleums and holding vaults designed for keeping bodies before burial arrangements are finalized.

Medical Examiner Offices

City/county morgues and medical examiner offices store remains for autopsy, identification, and other official purposes before releasing them for burial or cremation.


Cremation providers may hold embalmed bodies until the cremation process is scheduled.

In general, bodies cannot remain in these storage facilities indefinitely either. There are time restrictions in place based on the intended handling method and regulations. For example, a cemetery crypt is intended for temporary storage before burial, while a crematory may only hold remains for a few days before cremation must occur.

Alternatives to Keeping Embalmed Bodies at Home

If you wish to have a deceased loved one close by, there are some options that can provide a similar sense of connection without bringing the actual embalmed body home:

Hold a Viewing or Wake

Schedule a formal viewing of the embalmed body at a funeral home or other suitable venue. This allows family and friends to say goodbye and find closure.


Consider having the body cremated. The cremated ashes can be kept in an urn at home or burial site. Some funeral homes will let you witness the cremation process.

Photos and Memorabilia

Display favorite photos, belongings, or other reminders of your loved one at home rather than the physical remains. These mementos can provide comfort.

Visitation at Burial Site

Visit your loved one’s gravesite or memorial marker for a sense of connection after burial arrangements are complete. Many cemeteries allow embalmed bodies to be entombed above ground.

Commemorative Items

Carry a keepsake, such as engraved jewelry, a tissue sample, or lock of hair. These commemorative items can be prepared specially as memorials.


While embalming can temporarily preserve human remains, an embalmed body eventually needs proper burial or cremation. Keeping a body at home is not legal or advisable in most cases due to health risks and emotional concerns. However, you may be able to get special short-term permits for home storage in limited circumstances. Be sure to check your state and local laws. Your funeral director can also advise you on options for having your loved one close in a respectful manner. With some creativity, you can find meaningful ways to honor deceased family and friends within the boundaries of the law.