Caring for Your own
Vermont law allows families to care for their own dead. This includes transporting the deceased and funerals and burials on private property. You are not required to have a licensed funeral director involved in making or carrying out final arrangements. Embalming is not required by law, but you should consider weather and reasonable planning so that disposition is carried out in a timely manner.
If you have been caring for someone with a communicable disease, the same health precautions you took during care apply after death. No extraordinary measures are necessary. If death occurs from a rarer infectious disease, like meningitis or a tropical fever, you should consult the Health Department's Infectious Disease Unit at 888-588-7781. Immediate burial or direct cremation may be recommended in such cases.
Vermont deaths are reported and registered through the Electronic Death Registry System (EDRS), however, a family who does not involve a funeral director can report a death using a paper process.
The doctor who last cared for the deceased, or the local medical examiner if the death was unexpected, is responsible for completing the death certificate. The doctor will provide you with a two-page form called the Preliminary Report of Death (PROD). One side of the form will contain the “Medical Certification” completed and signed by the doctor. The “Demographic Information” side requesting information about the decedent and the disposition of the body must be fully completed and signed by the next-of-kin or an authorized agent. Vermont allows an individual to authorize an agent to carry out disposition of his or her body [18 V.S.A § 9702].
Once both sides of the PROD are complete, you must forward a copy to the Health Department's Vital Records Office within forty-eight hours of the death. The original form should be kept and used for obtaining permits. The PROD can be submitted by fax to 802-651-1787, or it can be mailed or delivered to:
Vital Records Office
Vermont Department of Health
108 Cherry Street P.O. Box 70
Burlington, VT 05402-0070
The Vital Records Office will enter information from the PROD into the Electronic Death Registration System (EDRS), and the death certificate will be made available to the town clerk in the town where the death occurred and to the town clerk in the decedent's town of residence. In most cases the death certificate will be available within one business day of receipt by Vital Records; however, if a town is not enrolled as a user of the EDRS, a hard copy will be mailed to the town from Vital Records. Therefore, you are encouraged to call the town clerk prior to traveling to get a copy of the certificate.
If you have questions about the PROD, please contact the Vital Records Office at 800-439-5008
If you plan to transport the deceased yourself, you must file a burial transit permit with the town clerk where the body is to be buried or cremated [Title 18, 5201]. The purpose is to track the disposition of the body to ensure that the town knows where the deceased is laid to rest. Be sure you have a completed Preliminary Report of Death and a burial transit permit before moving a body. The burial transit permit is available from the town clerk’s office or their designated deputy registrars.
If the body will be transported out-of-state for burial or cremation, be sure to call ahead to the out-of-state cemetery or crematory to check on any unique requirements, and to ensure they'll accept a body from a family member.
In the case of a death over a weekend or holiday, you may have to be prepared to hold the body until you can obtain all the required signatures. Ask the town clerk ahead of time how to pick up a burial transit permit on weekends, or who in your town serves as an on-call deputy. Depending on the time of year, you may need to plan for a temperature-controlled environment.
Some towns may have local ordinances regarding home burials, so you should consult with the town’s attorney or local zoning authorities. If you need advice on where to locate the burial grounds, call your local town health officer. After burial, sign the burial transit permit and file it with the town clerk.
Act 24, enacted by the 2015 General Assembly amended 18 V.S.A. Chapter 121.
Primary provisions of the Act:
For more information about burials in Vermont, please read this handbook from the Vermont Secretary of State's Office, or contact the Secretary of State directly.