What is a Disposition Permit?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2019
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A disposition permit is a document which outlines how human remains will be disposed of. For example, if Mary Jones is to be cremated and scattered in a cemetery, the disposition permit for her remains would read “cremation and scattering at Generic Cemetery in State.” A disposition permit is required in most areas before people can proceed with the disposition of human remains, and the document must remain on file with a health department or registrar of vital records.

Typically, in order to receive a disposition permit, people must go to the office of public health with the death certificate for the deceased. If the death certificate is accepted, the disposition permit can be filled out. Many disposition permits are designed with a checklist of disposition options such as cremation, burial at sea, burial, donation for scientific research, and so forth, with the relevant boxes being checked by the person who fills out the disposition permit. Once the disposition permit is filled out, it also authorizes the transport of the remains to their end destination, which must be indicated on the disposition permit.


In some parts of the world, mourners prefer to leave the details of handling the body to a funeral director. In these cases, the funeral director takes care of securing the death certificate and filing for a disposition permit. Because funeral directors have a great deal of experience in this field, they can typically accomplish the task quickly and with a minimum of fuss, ensuring that the body can be buried promptly.

However, in many areas, people who wish to care for their own dead may do so, as long as they fill out the appropriate paperwork. In areas where people want to care for deceased family members, it can be a good idea to research the administrative details ahead of time to ensure that there will be no snags at the time of death, and it can help to establish contact at the health department, because officials may be unfamiliar with handling death certificates and disposition permits on behalf on individuals.

A typical disposition permit is signed either by the funeral director handling the disposition, or the family member who has taken charge of the situation. It includes the full name of the decedent along with his or her dates of birth and death and location of death. The relevant box regarding the manner of disposition is checked, and the person who fills out the permit also fills out the location where the disposition is to take place. If the body is to be shipped out of the state or province, this will also be indicated, with officials at the end destination honoring the disposition permit when the decedent arrives.


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