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.
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. (Ind. Code §§ 16-37-3-10; 25-15-8-25 (2024).)
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:
(Ind. Code § 29-2-19-17 (2024).)
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:
(Ind. Code § 29-2-19-8 (2024).)
Making a health care power of attorney. Another way to name your representative is to make a durable power of attorney for health care. This saves the trouble of making separate documents for health care decisions and final wishes.
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.) (Ind. Code § 30-5-5-16 (2024).)
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.
Indiana has no embalming requirements, but you must make arrangements for final disposition within "a reasonable time after death." (Ind. Code § 23-14-54-1 (2024).)
The last attending physician, physician assistant, advanced practice registered nurse, or the funeral director must file the death certificate with the health officer in the jurisdiction where the death occurred. (Ind. Code § 16-37-3-3 (2024).)
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.
After filing the death certificate, the funeral director will obtain the necessary permits for transporting the body, and for burial or cremation. (Ind. Code §§ 16-37-3-10; 16-37-3-11; 25-15-8-25 (2024).)
In Indiana, bodies must be buried in established cemeteries. (Ind. Code § 23-14-54-1 (2024).)
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.
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. (Ind. Code § 23-14-31-36 (2024).)
Indiana law permits the person having legal control over the cremated remains to keep them or dispose of them by:
(Ind. Code § 23-14-31-44 (2024).)
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. (Ind. Code § 23-14-31-44 (2024).)
For more information about cremation, including more information on scattering ashes, see Burial and Cremation Laws in Indiana.
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.