PARKERSBURG - When it comes to someone's final dispensation, there are some laws, rules and guidelines to be followed to lay someone to their final resting place.
Whether burial or cremation, certain choices can be made and guidelines are in place to make sure the deceased and their family's wishes are met within reason.
''Different states have different rules,'' said Jon Leavitt of Leavitt's Funeral Home in Parkersburg and Belpre. ''Being in the Mid-Ohio Valley on the Ohio River, we have to be up and understand the laws of each state.''
Photos by Brett Dunlap
Whether deciding on a burial or cremation, both West Virginia and Ohio have laws, rules and guidelines about how people can make sure a loved one’s final wishes are carried out regarding their remains. Some may choose coffins, above, while others may use burial urns, below.
One of the first things to determine is who has the control or the right to make decisions regarding what will be done with the deceased after death, Leavitt said.
''It is different in each state,'' he said. ''In West Virginia, you can put it in your will to be cremated or you can put it in advanced directives and it must be carried out.
''In Ohio, you can put those wishes in a will, but you can only appoint somebody and it is at their discretion.''
In their experience, the wishes of the deceased are usually followed in a majority of cases, Leavitt said.
If a family chooses burial, there are a number of things to consider.
Some perpetual care cemeteries have funds in place to have someone care for those grounds over a long duration while some country cemeteries are cared for by a neighbor or a group of citizens of their own accord. Many cemeteries require the casket to be put in some kind of graveliner vault to prevent the ground from sinking while some rural cemeteries don't have any such requirements.
Dave A. Kimes of Kimes Funeral Home in Parkersburg said some people have wanted to be buried on an old family farm.
''It can be done,'' he said.
Family have to go to the county and have the property surveyed and have a deed recorded showing they have a cemetery on their property.
The city of Parkersburg passed an ordinance about 15 years ago to prevent people from being buried on private property within the city after someone had made inquires about burying a family member on a piece of residential property, Kimes said.
Many people believe embalming a body is a law.
''There is no law that says you have to be embalmed,'' Leavitt said. ''It really depends on the situation on whether to do it.
''If we have a public viewing or if there are health reasons, we do it for the sake of the people and the presentation so what people see is a better circumstance for family and friends.''
With cremation, there are a few more regulations.
''You have to abide by the laws of where you died,'' Leavitt said. ''If you are a resident of Washington County, but you died in West Virginia.
''As far as the cremation process you have to follow the West Virginia guidelines.''
A few years ago, a Georgia funeral director got into trouble for not performing cremations, stacking bodies on a piece of property and passing off other substances as the cremated remains.
''West Virginia was proactive before problems even arose,'' Leavitt said of laws passed to prevent such things from happening. ''The state has been on the front edge of that. Ohio has recently put together some great legislative laws regulating cremation and steps you have to do.''
For a family to have a cremation done in West Virginia, they have to have a signed death certificate and a coroner's permit, Leavitt said adding in Ohio, they have to wait 24 hours and have a burial permit from the county or the state.
''There is a little bit of difference, but you still have to get the approval of the state or the authorities,'' he said. ''(With cremations) in many cases, we still have visitation and services.''
In West Virginia there are no rules about what can be done with the cremated remains, Kimes said.
''You can scatter them, bury them or keep them at home,'' he said ''It is wide open.''
In Ohio, the authorities want to know a little more about what will be done with the cremated remains, Leavitt said.
Leavitt said some families have held on to the cremated remains for a period of time keeping them in an urn or special container, some want to scatter them at sea and do other things with them.
''What we have found is that families like to hold on to them and keep them for that connection,'' he said. ''Some have held on to those cremated remains and put them in the casket with a loved one to be buried together.
''It has given a lot of families choices. We have taken cremated remains and buried them on top of an existing plot.''
John Hadley of Hadley Funeral Homes in Marietta said he encourages families to bury cremated remains some place that is marked so future generations who might be looking for a certain family member would have a place to go to see where they are.
''Otherwise, no one would know where they were,'' he said. ''In Ohio, the cremation is considered the final internment.
''It really is the family's option for what they want to do.''
For some people, a certain place might have a connection to the deceased and they might want their cremated remains scattered there. However, if that is a public place there might be rules prohibiting it.
''What we always warn people about is if they want to scatter the cremated remains in a public area, people need to check with the authorities before they do it,'' Leavitt said, adding some places have given approval for certain areas.
''You don't know until you ask,'' he said.