What Does Exhume Mean?

For some people, the idea of exhumation may be unpleasant but there is a plethora of reasons why a deceased needs to be disinterred from its final resting place. In certain situations, the request for exhumation is deemed necessary not only for the deceased but for the living relatives as well. Whether it is for moving to a new burial plot, to further investigate the human remains’ cause of death to solve a possible crime, or for any other personal and special circumstances, let’s take a deep dive into the expenses as well as legalities of exhumation.

What does exhume mean?

Before we discuss the legalities and cost of exhumation, you might ask, what does the word ‘exhume’ really mean? The word exhume comes from the Latin word ‘exhumare’ which literally means, ‘out of the ground.’ Thus, exhume means to unearth a human remain and remove it from the ground. To dig out a deceased from its burial ground which was supposedly its final resting place is often out of the ordinary and definitely invasive. This is the reason why permissions have to be procured in order to ensure both the legal and moral obligations of all the parties involved. On top of that, exhumation also comes with a health risk which is why the process of exhumation will have to go through a standard procedure which also comes with a rather hefty cost.

How much does it cost to exhume a body?

From procuring the necessary permits to the opening and closing of the grave and re-burial, exhuming human remains is not an easy feat for the families involved both emotionally and financially. Before anyone can be allowed to dig up a grave, the party involved will first need to apply for an exhumation permit from the county, city, and state which will cost a few hundred dollars. Once the permits are procured, the party involved can then hire workers to open the grave which alone will cost a minimum of one thousand dollars then another fee of the same amount for the closing of the grave. The opening of the grave should only be done in the presence of health and safety representatives as well as environmental officers who will also charge around one thousand dollars for their time. With this alone, expect to shell out $3,500 to $4000.

On top of that, the families may also need a new casket for the deceased which can cost between $900 to $2000. In instances when caskets need to be replaced, the families will also be in charge of the proper disposal of the old casket which is typically done through cremation and can cost a few hundred dollars. If the remains need to be transferred to a different grave site, it has to be done in the presence of the funeral director which can cost around $1000 and that is excluding the actual transport cost of the human remains. Finally, upon arrival in the new burial ground, the families would again need to prepare for the opening and closing of the grave which can cost a minimum of $2000. So, when it comes to the total cost of exhumation and re-burial, having a budget that ranges from $10,000 to $15,000 is a reasonable estimate that families need to prepare.

What are the legal requirements to exhume a body?

Prior to submitting an exhumation request, it is of utmost importance that all family members are consulted beforehand as well as the superintendent of the burial site. Then next of kin requesting the exhumation has to provide legal requirements to certain government offices requesting exhumation approval. A notarized affidavit by each close living relative of the deceased should be submitted as well. Since the exhumation has to be in compliance with the state as well as local health laws and regulations, the next of kin will then request permits from the state, city, and county governments. Aside from engaging a funeral director for the re-casketing of the remains, the next of kin will also have to ensure the rehabilitation of the gravesite.

Is it legal to exhume a cremation urn after being buried?

It is illegal to exhume a cremation urn without a disinterment permit issued by the county coroner. Just like the uncremated human remains, cremation urns buried in burial grounds also require authorization by the county government before they can be exhumed. Even cremated remains are still human remains which means that they should be treated with respect and dignity. There are moral and legal obligations when it comes to the exhumation of cremation urns. Certain rules should be followed by everyone including the cemetery personnel and the families of the deceased. In this light, the exhumation of ashes from its gravesite will require permission from all the offices involved. When in doubt, it is always best to contact the cemetery officials or a funeral director for more details about exhuming cremated urns.

What is the process to exhume a body from a cemetery?

No cemetery can exhume human remains without obtaining a permit from the county government where the burial ground is located. For the cemetery or burial park superintendent to obtain permits, the official also has to notify the descendants before exhumation and then procure the necessary documents that will then be submitted to the county government.

When it comes to the process of exhumation, government representatives, cemetery officials, and funeral directors will have to play their specific parts in the process for there is a standard procedure that should be followed. First, the site will be evaluated by government representatives then health and safety officers as well as environmental officers will then be assigned to attend the exhumation. Typically, exhumation is done early in the morning and the grave site will be screened for security purposes. The presence of a funeral director is also important as it is the director’s responsibility to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Once the exhumation is done, the grave site will then be disinfected and the clearance certificate will be issued.


Readinform is a Wisconsin based writer for funerals explained. They have come to understand the struggles of death and loss. Through life experience they have gathered the knowledge to help others and answer questions related to the funeral industry. When not writing readyinform focuses on learning new things and exploring the differences society offers.

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