Can I 'bury' my partner as he wishes?

3 answers | Last updated: Oct 28, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

We live in Missouri. When my significant other dies, he does not want to be buried or have a funeral. He wants me to take his body out to our farm, put it in a boat, and set the whole thing on fire. He truly loves that property and wants to make sure I follow his wishes. Is that legal?

Expert Answers

Rebekah Peoples, CFSP, CPC, Is a licensed funeral director and embalmer. She is passionate about serving others and believes that giving clients honest, accurate information empowers them to create tributes and services that are meaningful and appropriate. Her tips about funerals and life can be found at

That is really a unique request and you and your significant other are to be commended for such open communication. Are his wishes legal? The short answer is no. This non-traditional "burial" sounds very much like a "Viking burial" which has been featured in some movies. Although it looks like a good option there, in reality there are a lot of reasons that it's not allowed by law. One of them is that when the Vikings did it, it was in a huge body of water, like an ocean or major sea, where there were no consequences of anything remaining being washed up on shore or of it contaminating water supplies.

Because he loves his farm property and you want to honor his wishes, here are some alternatives: * You could have his body cremated and placed in a wooden urn; then place the urn in the boat that will be set on fire. * His body could be cremated and the ashes scattered on the property. (This, like the previous option, is legal as long as you own the property.) * Most crematories require that a person's body be placed in or on some type of rigid surface or container in which to be cremated. You may be able to use a wooden or flammable portion of his boat, to place his body on to be cremated with him.

It might be helpful and also give you peace of mind, to call a local funeral director to talk about his wishes and to see if there are other options. A reputable caring one will be glad to talk to you about this.

Community Answers

Hildat answered...

I was going to say the same thing, have him cremated & scatter his ashes. When my husband died 10 years ago, he wished to be cremated & his ashes scattered in Key West. Unfortunately I have not been back to Key West for financial reasons. His sister approached me about 5 years after he died & told me their mother had passed away & could she have her brother's ashes to scatter on the mother & father's graves on Mother's day. I thought that was a wonderful gesture & said yes.

The practical expert answered...

Agree with what has been said but a couple of possible additional helpful details. Every State has a Hemlock Society which can give detailed info on how to meet the State law but also more details and resources on to as closely meet your husbands desires as possible. (Funeral Home should be able to give you phone number or look on web) You do not have to buy an urn if someone is being cremated, the ashes can actually be mailed and delivered to your door in a cardboard box (seen it done). Some States will not allow ashes on water, so ask about it in your State with the Hemlock Soceity. The Hemlock Society and I am not a member, is a great resource for those who prefer non-traditional burial alternatives.