My first question comes from a customer who has been watching a tv series where they exhume (or remove from the grave) the victim of an unsolved murder case.

Now. I have never heard of this show, know nothing about and am not suggesting you watch it. But the question is: Can you exhume someone for reasons other than solving cold murder cases? The answer to that question is yes, people may choose to exhume someone for multiple reasons.

Why People May Be Exhumed

Choosing to exhume someone is a very personal and emotional decision. Throughout my career I have seen several families choose to exhume someone and move to a new cemetery. Reasons for moving a person to a new cemetery often include:

  • Becoming unhappy with the initial choice of cemetery and wishing to move a loved one to a different one.
  • Moving a long distance away and wishing to take their loved one to a cemetery near their new home.

Additionally, other common reasons to exhume someone include:

  • Moving them from one plot to another plot in the same cemetery.
  • Exhuming them for medical reasons (ie testing, looking at devices such as pace makers, etc).
  • Exhuming them for legal reasons (ie crime victim, cause of death re-examinations, etc).

Steps Involved

Your state and local government have laws in place that you need to be aware of if you are considering exhuming someone. Additionally, there are documents that you will need to file. For those reasons the very first thing you need to do is contact a reputable and trusted funeral director.

Funeral Directors undergo rigorous training and testing to ensure they are knowledgeable of their state’s laws surrounding all matters of death, including the act of exhuming. Because this process is complex and requires a licensed professional, enlisting their help is necessary.

Interviewing Funeral Directors

Because the process of exhuming someone is emotional and complex, interviewing funeral directors in your area and then choosing the one you feel can best help you is a great idea. Keep in mind, the chosen funeral director and/or funeral home does not have to be the same one that buried the individual. In fact, you may discover some funeral homes are better able to handle this process than others.

Questions to ask include:

  • What does the entire process of exhuming someone look like?
  • What does the legal process look like?
  • Do I need legal permission from other family members? And what if they do not consent?
  • May I be present and is it a good idea for me to be present?
  • What can I expect if I choose to be present? What condition can I expect the burial container be in?
Focus on Healing

While you may be confident that exhuming someone you love is the right decision, you may need help with the emotional impact such a decision can have. The emotional and mental health of yourself and other individuals involved in choosing to exhume someone should be a priority. It is important to visit with a therapist, counselor, clergy member or other professional to help you cope with any feelings or emotions that may surface.

Choosing to exhume someone you love is a difficult decision. However, with the right team in place, the process can be made as easy as possible. By seeking a great funeral director, asking the right questions and taking care of your health the process will be made easier.


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