Q: Is It Legal to “Weekend at Bernie’s” Someone?

Hello, and welcome to another installment of Dying to Know, the blog where we answer your burning questions about death and dying. So here’s a question: Can you bring your favorite dead person with you somewhere in your car? Prop them up on a beach with a beverage? Can shenanigans ensue?

A: NO.

But let me qualify that. I mean, you as a non-mortician person living in Minnesota, can certainly transport a dead person in two circumstances:

  1. You are the deceased person’s legal next of kin ~OR~
  2. The legal next of kin has asked you to transport the deceased person and they did not pay you to do that

HOWEVER, that’s just the start of the limitations on transporting the deceased in Minnesota. Here’s what else you have to do to legally transport a deceased person.

  • Use “universal precautions” to reduce the risk of transmitting a communicable disease. This generally means wearing latex or nitrile gloves, not necessarily an enormous hazmat suit.
  • Wrap the person in a waterproof sheet or pouch, cover them from view, and place them (flat) on a cot, stretcher, or a rigid tray.
  • Complete a certificate of removal.

Once you have the person ready for transport, the vehicle itself has to meet a few criteria, too.

  • Legally, it must be a vehicle that “promotes respect for and preserves the dignity” of the person
  • Shields them from view
  • Has enough room for the cot or stretcher to lie flat and
  • Allows you to remove the deceased person from the vehicle without “excessive tilting.”

So a clown car is likely out, but a pickup truck with a topper is actually just fine! So is a van with the back seats removed. And these days, most funeral homes are actually using normal vans to transfer deceased folks because no one really wants to see a hearse parked in their neighbor’s driveway. It’s discreet and it doesn’t make people on the freeway freak out.

What About the Beverage? The Shenanigans?

I mean, once you’ve had the fun-filled excursion of donning nitrile gloves, wrapping your friend in a waterproof sheet, and buckling them onto a cot, you might not have much of an appetite for a beachfront Mai Tai. But if you do, could you?

Well, after this point, MN law generally expects that the deceased person will be “decently” buried or cremated “within a reasonable time after death.” And as long as the person has been cooled with dry ice or other refrigerant, they limit this reasonable time to four days from the time of death or release from a medical examiner. The other hiccup is that if you have used dry ice or refrigerant to cool the person, they can only be “publicly viewed” on private property.

So if you happen to find a private beach and the owner agrees, you could theoretically settle in together for a drink. But keep in mind that you had to get them there wrapped up and lying flat on a cot, and now once you’re at the beach you’ll need to unload them, unwrap them, reposition them (good luck with that), put a drink in their hand, catch your breath, drink your drink, and then re-reposition them (good luck again), rewrap them, and load them back into your vehicle. Fun, right? Not the shenanigans you had in mind? Not my idea of fun, either.

So, there you have it. If your last wish is for your family to bring you to the beach buckled into the passenger seat, I’m afraid you’ll need to be in an urn first!