You are here:

Funerals/time between passing and burial


Dear expert,
See the obituary below. It is the only anouncement I received of the passing of my American cousin-in-law, who died on Jan. 5. In the Netherlands the maximum delay between passing and burial (or cremation) is 7 days (rare exceptions are permitted). Do such laws exist in PA? I am a bit surprised by a delay of 20 days!
I liked my cousin, so I consider to go to the USA for the memorial service. There is no mention whatsoever of a burial or cremation. Is that also customary in the USA? And does 'visitation' imply that my cousin will not be buried or cremated before Jan 25? What are 'memorials'?
I will be very grateful for your answer & information.
Henk van Leeuwen (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, January 25, 2014 at 11 a.m. in the ...... Church of Christ, .............., with the Church pastor, Rev. Mary B. ........ and Rev. James ......, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, ........, officiating. There will be a visitation at the Church from 9:30 to 11 a.m. The family will provide flowers. Memorials may be made to the ............Home Hospice, ..............., PA 1....

Actually, I think it's only 5 days in the Netherlands.

From the obit, the term "memorial service" implies that there is no casket present. Otherwise they would have used the word "funeral." Also, they did not use the word "viewing," using instead "visitation" as a time for the family to chat with friends in a less formal setting.

Only a few states have a set time by when disposition must occur. I think the longest is 10 days. No set time in PA.


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Lisa Carlson


Funeral Law. Having written a 512-page book on funeral law for consumers with state-by-state information, I am very conversant with consumer rights in this regard: What are the laws on disposition of cremated remains? Is embalming required? Do I have to use a funeral home? Can I have a home wake? Is it a state law to buy a vault? I prepaid for a funeral but changed my mind. They won`t give me all my money back. What can I do? . . . If you have an immediate need for information because a death has just occurred or is about to occur, you may call me at 802-482-6021.


I have monitored the funeral industry on behalf of consumers for over 20 years. I have been a guest speaker to funeral trade organizations, consumer workshops, and social service professionals. I am regularly consulted by lawyers and legislators as well as journalists.

Funeral Ethics Organization ( Funeral Consumers Alliance (

Caring for Your Own Dead (1987) Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love (1998) I Died Laughing: Funeral Education with a Light Touch (2001) Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death (2011) with co-author Joshua Slocum

Masters degree in Administration and Special Education

Past/Present Clients
Available as an expert witness for funeral-related court cases.

©2016 All rights reserved.