Indiana Home Funeral Laws

Learn the rules that govern home funerals in Indiana.

Indiana is one of only a handful of states that restrict home funerals by requiring the involvement of a licensed funeral director in many aspects of final arrangements. Here is an overview of the rules that govern home funerals in Indiana.

You Must Use a Funeral Director in Indiana

By law, a licensed funeral director must oversee the final disposition of a body in Indiana. For example, only a licensed funeral director may be issued a permit to move the body for final disposition. (See Indiana Code §§ 16-37-3-10 (2018) and 25-15-8-25 (2018).)

Who Makes Decisions About Body Disposition and Funeral Arrangements?

Although a funeral director must carry out disposition arrangements, Indiana law determines who has the right to make final decisions about a person’s body and funeral services. This right goes first to a person appointed by the deceased person before death, then to the agent under any health care power of attorney, and after that to family members in an established order.

To learn the rules and the exact order of priority, see Making Funeral Arrangements in Indiana.

Must the Body Be Embalmed?

Indiana has no embalming requirements, but you must make arrangements for final disposition within “a reasonable time after death.” (Indiana Code § 23-14-54-1 (2018).)

Getting a Death Certificate

The funeral director must file the death certificate with the health officer in the jurisdiction where the death occurred. (Indiana Code § 16-37-3-3 (2018).) Indiana statutes do not provide a deadline by which the death certificate must be filed, but the state uses an electronic death registration system to simplify the process.

You will need certified copies of the death certificate to carry out other tasks after the death, such as transferring the deceased person’s property to inheritors. The funeral director who files the death certificate should be able to order copies for you.

Getting a Permit to Transport the Body

After filing the death certificate, the funeral director will obtain the necessary permits for transporting the body, and for burial or cremation. (Indiana Code § § 16-37-3-10 (2018) and 25-15-8-25 (2018).)

Can You Bury a Body at Home?

In Indiana, bodies must be buried in established cemeteries. (Indiana Code § 23-14-54-1 (2018).) If you want to bury a body on private land and you live in a rural area, you may be able to establish a family cemetery. You should check with the county or town clerk for any zoning laws or other ordinances you must follow.

What About Cremation?

You must arrange cremation through a funeral director, who will obtain the required permits. In Indiana, there is a required waiting period of 48 hours before cremation may occur, unless waived by the local health officer. (Indiana Code § 23-14-31-36 (2018).)

Indiana law permits the person having legal control over the cremated remains to keep them or dispose of them by:

  • placing them in a grave, crypt, or niche,
  • scattering them in a legally-defined “scattering area,” such as a designated section of a cemetery, or
  • scattering them on a consenting owner’s private property, on uninhabited public land, or on a waterway.

The person having legal control over the cremated remains must file a form with the county recorder documenting the date, manner of disposal, and a description of the property where the ashes were scattered or placed. This form must be filed within ten days after disposal. (See Indiana Code § 23-14-31-44 (2018).)

For more information about cremation, including more information on scattering ashes, see Burial and Cremation Laws in Indiana.

Learn More About Home Funerals

You can find out more about home funerals by visiting the National Home Funeral Alliance website. The book Final Rights, by Joshua Slocum and Lisa Carlson, also offers extensive information on the subject.

For more information about final arrangements and documenting your final wishes in advance, see Nolo’s section on Getting Your Affairs in Order.

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