Developed in 1998 by the Government and Legal Affairs Task Force of the International Cemetery and Funeral Association


All aspects of the final disposition of human remains should be handled with dignity, observing standards of decency, and in accordance with applicable laws.

Final disposition can be in the form of burial, entombment, inurnment, burial at sea, scattering, dispersion into space, shipment, or delivery of cremated remains to a designated person. The steps included in the preparation process for final disposition include, but are not limited to, removal, autopsy, embalming, cleansing, dressing, viewing, visitation, ceremony, cremation, and the selection of merchandise, services, and interment rights. The care and preparation of human remains is a process where, due to issues of privacy, respect, and safety, access during certain procedures should be limited to authorized individuals, and on occasion, immediate family members of the deceased.

At all times, human remains should be treated with dignity. Intentional misconduct in handling the human remains should not be tolerated. Accordingly, penalties for such actions should be sufficiently severe to discourage the activity and punish those who engage in it.


  1. Upon taking custody of the human remains, the entity in charge of the final disposition should verify that the container which encases the human remains bears identification of the deceased and is accompanied by the proper documentation.
  2. The cemetery authority, crematory authority, direct disposer, funeral establishment, or related businesses should be held harmless in connection with the authorized final disposition, when relying upon the identification and disclosures provided by the authorizing agent and acting in good faith upon the instructions of the authorizing agent.
  3. If there is a delay in the final disposition, human remains that have not been embalmed or cremated should be held in a refrigeration unit until such time as final disposition occurs.
  4. In the event that the cremated remains are unclaimed for a stated period of time, the crematory authority should send a letter by registered mail to the authorizing agent. If the cremated remains are unclaimed for a specified period of time after such written notification is mailed, the crematory authority should dispose of unclaimed cremated remains in any proper manner, and be held harmless for this action.
  5. The choice of the entity in charge of the final disposition should be left to the authorizing agent of the deceased. It should be considered unethical and illegal conduct to engage in Asteering@ practices, where the human remains are directed to a specific cemetery authority, crematory authority, direct disposer, funeral establishment, or related businesses for payment of a referral fee.
  6. Persons employed in the proximity of either the deceased or the next of kin should conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the solemnity of the occasion. Unlawful conduct should include physical contact with human remains for purposes unrelated to the preparation process and final disposition, mutilation, concealment of human remains that have been illegally disinterred, and the acquisition or sale of human remains or body parts. This would not apply to any act performed for a bona fide medical purpose or for any other lawful purpose.