Where Can You Bury a Body In S.C.? And Other Laws About Death

Each state has its own laws when it comes to funeral services, cremation, and burial. You might assume that South Carolina law requires embalming for public viewing or prohibits scattering ashes in the ocean, but that’s not true.

But keep in mind that while providers in the death industry must follow applicable laws, some cemeteries, memorial gardens, mausoleums and the like may have their own rules that you have to follow if you want to use their services.  

Embalming is rarely required by South Carolina State law.

Embalming is such a common practice, it would be easy to assume that it’s always legally required. Nope – not by federal law, and not by South Carolina State law, either. The only time a body needs to be embalmed is if it’s going to be shipped by “common carrier,” and even then, only if the body is in good enough condition for embalming. (If it’s not, the body must be put in a “strong tightly sealed shipping case.”) Source: SC Code of Regulations 61-19 Sec. 28.

You don’t need to buy the casket from the funeral home.

In fact, state law doesn’t require you to get a casket at al for burial or cremation. (But a cemetery might, so check first.)

The funeral home handling the arrangements is required by federal law to use a casket that you provide if you don’t want to buy one from them. Considering that fancy caskets can cost upwards of $10,000 or more, and that even the average cost of a casket is $2,000, it’s worth looking for alternatives. Buy one online or build your own if you want. State law allows it.

No positive identification of a body is required before cremation.

State law does not require family members to positively identify a body before cremation in South Carolina. Only a small majority of states do. Unfortunately, this sometimes leads to families receiving cremated remains that are not of their loved ones.

Although the law doesn’t require it, some cremation services may require positive identification of the body before cremation.

You can be buried on private property.

With permission of the owner, of course, and as long as local zoning allows it. Once the grave is there, the land owner must allow access to the grave to family members, descendants, and agents with the written permission of the family or descendant, according to Section 27-43-310.

Your ashes can be scattered pretty much anywhere.

No state laws prohibit scattering ashes, or remains, anywhere. You’re more likely to run into local zoning restrictions, so check those first.

Federal law requires you to get permission before scattering ashes on federal land, and you should get permission of the owner if you want to scatter ashes on private property. However, many people go ahead and scatter ashes – discreetly – where they wish, and no one’s the wiser.

Finally, if you want to scatter ashes at sea, you must do so at least 3 nautical miles off the coast and tell the EPA within 30 days.