funeral can be challenging, especially as you are usually grieving and
feeling emotionally vulnerable at the same time, and this can mean making
decisions is not easy.
This brief guide to arranging
a funeral or cremation in Iowa aims to provide a starting point and give
you an overview of some of the main things you need to consider.
State laws relating to funeral services differ by state, so we have tried
to provide an overview of how Iowa laws govern the purchase of funeral
products and services.
some clear ideas of what you
do need from a funeral home helps you make the decision of which funeral
home is right for you.
Choosing a funeral home in Iowa
One of the first things you
will need to do, especially if a death has just occurred, is choose the
funeral director you wish to handle the funeral services. There are in
the region of 700 funeral homes and mortuaries in Iowa so you need to consider
what criteria can help you select the right funeral home for your needs.
Do you require a traditional funeral or burial service? Or are you
seeking a more contemporary life celebration service, or a cremation?
Is the cost of the funeral an issue, are you working to a tight budget
and looking to save money where you can on funeral expenses? Obviously
Many people seek recommendations
or referrals from family or friends, and this is a very good way to get
information. However, if you are not in a position to benefit from
a sound referral, or you are seeking something specific, you may have to
resort to contacting funeral homes yourself. Usually people look
for a reputable funeral business in their own area, but it is always advisable
to check with more than one funeral home and compare services and prices
for a funeral or cremation.
What does an average funeral
cost in Iowa?
The average cost of a funeral
in the U.S. is $7,045 (according to the NFDA - National Association of
Funeral Directors 2012), and this does not include any cemetery fees.
Depending upon the funeral services provider you select, and the range
of ancillary services, a funeral in Iowa can cost anything from $3,700
[excluding cemetery costs]. Managing some of the more expensive items,
such as the casket, and looking at more affordable options, can help you
save money on funeral costs.
All funeral homes in Iowa
must have a general price list (GPL) that outlines their service charges
and funeral merchandise prices. They must provide a copy of their
GPL when they quote you a price according to the Federal Trade Commission’s
‘The Funeral Rule’.
It is recommended that you
DO compare like-for-like, and shop around and compare funeral prices between
more than one funeral home. That way you can be sure that you have
a “best value” funeral service.
What does a cremation cost in
A typical cremation funeral
service will cost in the region of $3,200 (depending upon the ancillary
services/products you select). This is the type of cremation service
that replaces a full traditional funeral. It is possible to arrange
a cremation for considerably less than this.
Arranging cremation services
Cremation is fast-becoming the
preferred option in Iowa now, and in Des Moines and Iowa City the cremation
rate is almost surpassing 50%. In order to arrange a cremation, a
cremation authorization form MUST be signed by the next of kin, so that
a cremation permit can be issued. There is no mandatory waiting period
for cremation in Iowa, although Iowa law states that the deceased must
be cremated or embalmed within 48 hours of the death.
Arranging a direct cremation
A direct cremation can be arranged
in Iowa for as little as $895 in Des Moines, in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City
costs are just over $1,000, and in more rural areas it may cost more than
this. A direct cremation is the least expensive cremation option
for families. A direct cremation means that there are no services,
the cremation goes ahead once all the documentation has been completed
and then the cremated remains are returned to the family in a temporary
container. Incremental options, such as a private family viewing
or an upgraded cremation urn, can be added to a basic direct cremation
package for an additional fee.
How do I decide between a burial
or a cremation?
The decision between choosing
a burial or cremation is very much a personal choice. The deceased
may have left explicit wishes or surviving family may have to make a decision.
Faith and/or funds for the funeral service can play a significant role
in whether a burial or cremation is chosen. Having a pre-existing
cemetery plot can be an important aspect as burial plots can be quite expensive
to purchase these days. Cremation is certainly on the increase in
the United States, and is becoming a popular funeral alternative for many
now. Green burials are also another option that can be considered.
If you are unsure whether
to choose between burial or cremation, talk to family and friends, and
discuss the decision with your funeral director.
What can I do with the cremated
remains after a cremation?
You have several options about
what you do with cremated remains. The cremated remains are returned
to you in a cremation urn and you may keep the cremated remains at home
in the urn or have the urn interred in a niche, mausoleum or existing grave
plot. You can also have the cremated remains divided between a number
of keepsake urns, if several family members wish to keep some of their
loved one nearby.
Ash scattering is another
option. You can scatter cremated remains on private land (with the
consent of the landowner) and you can scatter in many public areas, so
long as you use common sense guidelines. You may need to check if
any permit or authorization is required to scatter cremated remains in
state parklands and other municipal grounds.
Does the deceased have to be
There is no legal requirement,
or Iowa law, stipulating that you have to have the deceased embalmed.
However, some funeral homes may adopt policies that insist upon embalming
if a public viewing or service is being held with the deceased in repose.
Iowa is one state that upholds a law that stipulates a body must be buried
or cremated within 48 hours or embalming is required. [Code 645-100.6(4)]
For some reason Iowa is one of a minority of states that do not allow refrigeration
as an alternative to embalming. However, if you proceed with a timely funeral,
you can eliminate the need for embalming (and it can just be another fee
to add to your funeral costs!)
Home Funerals – Do I have to
employ a funeral director in Iowa?
Although Iowa is not listed
as a state that prohibits family from taking care of their own dead, it
appears that Iowa law requires that a funeral director remove the deceased
from the place of death. From what I can gather this refers to the
fact that a burial-transit permit is generally only issued to a licensed
funeral director. This does mean you can still conduct your own home
death care but you may need the services of a funeral director to obtain
the necessary transit permit to move the deceased to the church/cemetery/crematory.
To find out more about your
options for buying a casket, or purchasing a headstone, visit our comprehensive
sections on Caskets and Grave Markers. I would recommend you visit these
sections for more detailed information.
Purchasing a casket or grave
marker in Iowa
It is legal in Iowa to purchase
a casket from elsewhere than your funeral home, and your funeral home MUST
accept it without a surcharge. Often you can make a significant saving
by purchasing a casket from a third-party seller. Generally a grave
marker is not erected until some months after the burial. [This is to allow
the ground to settle] Therefore you do not have to purchase one immediately,
or from the funeral home/cemetery, at the time of making funeral arrangements.
Can I pre-plan a funeral in
Pre-planning your funeral alleviates
family of both the difficult decisions and the financial burden of funeral
expenses. You can preplan a funeral in Iowa by making funeral arrangements
direct with a funeral home with a preneed funeral contract or purchase
What you DO need to consider
is that funeral prices could indeed be coming down. Funeral companies
promote preplanning on the basis that it “locks into today’s prices”, but
with the cremation trend increasing, and more funeral homes competing for
the ‘affordable’ funeral market – the reality is that the funeral costs
are not as ‘fixed’ as they once were.
Another funeral planning
alternative is to document your wishes and put aside the appropriate funds
in a POD Payable on Death account or a Totten Trust. This enables
family to access the funds at the time of need and make the funeral arrangements,
but you keep in control of your monies and any accrued interest.
Read more in our article ‘What is my best and safest option for putting
aside money for a funeral’.
Can I donate my body to science
Yes, donating your body to science
can be a great way to facilitate your end-of-life needs. Most of
the national organizations that deal with full body donation handle everything
from the moment you notify them of the death, including collecting the
body, the donation, the free cremation and the return of the cremated remains
to the family a few weeks later. Check out our Body Donation
section for further information. Des Moines University and the University
of Iowa both have body
How can I transport a loved
one either back to, or from, Iowa after death?
If a loved one needs to be transported
back to a state or country of origin following their death, you will need
the services of a funeral director who can arrange funeral shipping for
you. This generally needs a funeral professional who can coordinate
arrangements at the place of death and wherever the body is being shipped
If transporting a loved one
between states in the United States you have the option of flying the body,
or transporting the body by land. Certain regulations do apply on
moving a body, and it is likely that embalming will be required as well
as specific containers to hold the casket. Shipping a body can be
quite expensive, so the other alternative you have is to have the body
cremated at the place of death, and then transport back the cremated remains.
Visit our section on Funeral Shipping to read more.
Who should I contact if I have
a complaint about a funeral home in Iowa?
Funeral professionals are very
dedicated in their vocation, however, it does sometimes happen that you
may have a complaint or grievance with a funeral home and you do not manage
to resolve it directly with the funeral director. Iowa Board of Public
Health’s Board of Mortuary Science licenses funeral establishments and
professionals, and they may be able to assist you with a complaint against
a licensed funeral establishment. They can be reached at: Lucas State Office
Building, 321 E. 12th Street, Des Moines, IA 50319 Phone (515) 281-4287
I hope this guide has helped
to answer some of your immediate questions. Please check out our
Library/info section for our full catalogue of resources to help you through
the process of arranging a funeral. Feel free to contact us if we
can be of any assistance with any further questions you may have.
||Expert Author: Sara
Sara is the Editor in Chief
for US Funerals Online and has been researching and writing about the death
care industry in the US for the last 5 years.
Published: January 5th 2014
Homes in Iowa
Cost Funeral & Cremation Providers in Iowa