Indiana state law does not require embalming but it may be required by funeral home policy if a public viewing is desired. The health department may also require embalming for the transfer of deceased remains across state lines or internationally. Funeral homes MUST disclose that embalming is not a legal requirement. (source: IC 25-15-8-4)
Ask if the funeral home offers private family viewing without embalming. If some form of preservation is a practical necessity (ex: the funeral will not take place for a week or more) ask the funeral home if refrigeration is available.
Embalming has nothing to do with protecting the public from disease. In fact, a representative from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control was quoted in Mortuary Management Magazine as saying, “We have not at any point prescribed embalming as a method of protecting public health.”
If a funeral director tells you embalming protects from disease (which may be an attempt to pressure you to pay for it or simply ill informed service), ask them to point you to the studies that prove this. There are none. No other country comes close to utilizing embalming the way the U.S. does.
Transporting the Body
Burial Transit Permits (BTP) are issued directly to a funeral director from the place of death. If a loved one in Indiana wishes to participate in transporting a body they must have a funeral director’s approval and involvement.(source: IC 16-37-3-12)
Purchasing or Providing Your Own Burial Container
According to federal law, funeral homes must accept caskets that have been purchased from outside sources. You do not have to purchase a casket from the funeral home. You may also build your own casket or be buried in a cloth shroud. I advise checking with the cemetery of your choice to ensure their policy will not prohibit you from your burial plans.
Funeral homes cannot charge you a fee if you purchase a casket elsewhere. Even a “handling fee” is a hidden, illegal penalty for you practicing your right to purchase a casket from an outside source.
There is no law requiring you to use a casket for cremation. Funeral homes must inform you of alternative containers and make them available to you. These are often made of unfinished wood, fiberboard, or cardboard and are far less expensive than a traditional casket.
The majority of cemeteries require what is called an “outer burial container” such as a grave liner or burial vault to prevent the grave from sinking in over time. These containers are not required by state law anywhere in the U.S., only by cemetery policy. Often made of cement these are considered a separate purchase from a casket.
Where You Can Bury
Full body burial on private property is illegal in Indiana. All bodies must be buried in established cemeteries. Cremated remains may be deposited in mausoleums, garden crypts, columbaria, and in or on the earth. Cremated remains may be spread on private property. Violation of burial regulations is considered a class B misdemeanor and may result in a $1,000 fine or up to 180 days in jail. (source: IC 23-14-54-1)
Time Spent with Loved One After Death
The individual given authority to determine final disposition of the body has up to 72 hours or three days from the time of death to contact the funeral home of their choice. In most cases you do not need to have the body removed immediately following the death. Death is not an emergency. (source IC 25-15-9-18)
Funeral Price Comparison
According to the Funeral Rule, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, funeral directors must give you pricing information over the phone if you request it. You do NOT need to give them your name, address, or telephone number first even if they ask for it.
You also have the right to buy separate goods (such as caskets) and services (such as embalming or a memorial service). You do not have to accept a package from a funeral home that may include items you do not want.