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Indiana Home Funeral Laws

Find out what you need to know before having a home funeral in Indiana.

Updated By , Attorney

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 (2019) and 25-15-8-25 (2019).)

Who Has the Right to Make Funeral Arrangements in Indiana?

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 and responsibility goes to the following people, in order:

  • a person you name in a "funeral planning declaration" made before your death
  • your agent under a health care power of attorney
  • your surviving spouse
  • your adult child
  • your surviving parent
  • your next of kin
  • your step child, or
  • any other person willing to take on the legal and financial responsibility.

(Indiana Code § 29-2-19-17 (2019).)

Making a funeral planning declaration. To make a document appointing someone to carry out your final wishes, you must use Indiana's official funeral planning declaration form (or a substantially similar form), then sign and date the form in front of two adult witnesses. Your witnesses may not be:

  • a person who signs the declaration on your behalf, if you are physically unable to sign it yourself
  • your parent, spouse, or child, or
  • a person who is entitled to any part of your estate by will or otherwise.

(Indiana Code § 29-2-19-8.)

Making a health care power of attorney. Another smart way to name your representative is to make a durable power of attorney for health care. In your document, you can give your health care agent explicit power to carry out your final arrangements. (You must make this authority clear in your power of attorney document; otherwise your agent's decision-making power ends upon your death.) This saves the trouble of making separate documents for health care decisions and final wishes.

For information about making a power of attorney, see Living Wills and Medical Powers of Attorney.

Note that, if you are in the military, you may name the person who will carry out your final wishes in the Record of Emergency Data provided by the Department of Defense.

Who pays for your funeral arrangements? You can either pay for your plans before you die, or you can set aside money for your survivors to use for this purpose. If you don't do either of these things, and there's not enough money in your estate to pay for funeral goods and services, your survivors must cover the costs.

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 (2019).)

Getting a Death Certificate in Indiana

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 (2019).) 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 (2019) and 25-15-8-25 (2019).)

Can You Bury a Body at Home?

In Indiana, bodies must be buried in established cemeteries. (Indiana Code § 23-14-54-1 (2019).) 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 (2019).)

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 (2019).)

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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