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Cemetery Laws & FAQs

Cemetery Laws & FAQs

  • Does the Division of Historic Preservation & Archaeology establish new cemeteries?

    No, the division has a program to survey and register Indiana cemeteries and burial grounds. The division is not involved in the establishment of new cemeteries. Individuals desiring to establish a family cemetery should consult their local government for any restrictions and requirements. IC 23-14 may also be consulted for information.

  • There is a cemetery on or near my property. Does this mean I can’t build on my land?

    A person may not disturb the ground within 100 feet of a burial ground or cemetery for the purpose of erecting, altering, or repairing any structure that would impact the burial ground or cemetery without having a cemetery development plan approved by the DHPA. See IC 14-21-1-26.5 for the full text of the law and exceptions.

  • How do I get involved in cemetery restoration?

    Resources and organizations that assist in cemetery preservation are listed on this web page. There are no state laws that describe the preservation techniques of cemeteries and gravestones, but there are best practices and standards to assure that you are preserving the site in a way that will not eventually lead to damage. While cleaning and maintaining a cemetery can be done without professional help, we recommend professional and experienced assistance repairing and resetting stones.  Always keep in mind that you must have landowner permission to access a cemetery and to complete any restoration work.

  • Can I probe for stones in a cemetery?

    A license issued by the division is required to probe the ground to locate fallen grave memorials in known cemeteries, recover fallen grave memorials, and restore or reset memorials in a cemetery. Contact the Cemetery Registry Coordinator to discuss probing permit requirements.

  • Are all cemeteries publicly accessible?

    Landowners are not required to provide public access to cemeteries on private land. Rules for access to public cemeteries may be established by the government bodies responsible for their care and are often posted. Only cemeteries that are defined as Cemetery Land under IC 6-1.1-6.8 must grant access to descendants or family members.

  • What happens if I find human remains?

    Any discovery of human remains or possible human remains should be left undisturbed and reported to the County Coroner, DNR Division of Law Enforcement, and the DNR Division of Historic Preserva­tion & Archaeology as soon as possible.

  • What should I do if I find an artifact?

    It is not illegal to collect artifacts from the surface of sites (except on federal and state property) as long as landowner’s permission has been obtained to be on the property and collect artifacts. A permit is required to conduct field investigations on state property (IC 14-21-1-16). It is illegal to disturb the ground for the purpose of obtaining artifacts or human remains. Any archaeological scientific investigations must be conducted under the control or supervision of a qualified professional archaeolo­gist.

  • How do I classify land as cemetery land?

    For property tax purposes, a person may have a parcel of land reclassified as cemetery land. This reclassification process should not be confused with establishing a new cemetery. If the land satisfies the conditions for reclassification, the value of the land (where the cemetery is located) will be assessed at $1 per acre (IC 6-1.1-6.8). Download the application to classify land as cemetery land.

Historic Preservation & Archaeology Laws

There are several state laws pertaining to the maintenance, protection, and use of cemeteries. The following list offers a brief summary of some of the laws relating to cemeteries. Click the hyperlink to read any law in its entirety.

IC 14-21-1-7 - Defines human remains.

IC 14-21-1-13.5 - Authorizes the Department of Natural Resources Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology to conduct a survey program of every cemetery and burial ground in Indiana.

IC 14-21-1-24 and IC 35-43-1-2.1 - Makes it illegal to farm or conduct animal husbandry in a cemetery.

IC 14-21-1-26.5 - Addresses when a development plan may be required for ground disturbance within 100 feet of a burial ground or cemetery for the purpose of erecting, altering, or repairing any structure that would impact the burial ground or cemetery.

IC 14-21-1-27 - A person finding human remains must notify DHPA within two days. If reburial is to occur, it will be in compliance with state laws.

IC 14-21-1-28 - Makes it illegal to disturb the ground for the purpose of discovering or removing artifacts, burial objects, grave markers, or human remains without a plan approved by DHPA.

IC 14-21-1-29 - If you find an artifact or burial object while disturbing the ground for a purpose other than discovering artifacts or burial objects, ground disturbance must stop and notification of our department must be within two days.

IC 14-21-2 - Removal of a grave memorial must be reported to the County Recorder; makes selling grave artifacts illegal.

IC 14-21-3 - Before a person buys property containing a cemetery, the current owner must record the deed in the recorder's office with CEMETERY in bold, capital letters on the bottom of the deed.

Cemetery Association Laws

IC 23-14 - Defines a cemetery, discusses care of cemeteries in use, surveys of cemeteries, and other aspects of cemeteries in use.

IC 35-43-1-2.1 and IC 14-21-1-24 - Makes it illegal to farm or conduct animal husbandry in a cemetery.

IC 23-14-57 - Describes how cemeteries and human remains are disinterred.

IC 23-14-67 - Discusses the creation of Cemetery Commissions at the county level.

IC 23-14-68
Care of cemetery by Township:

  • Cemeteries without funds for maintenance
  • In existence before February 28, 1939
  • Not managed by any viable organizations

Defines what the Township Trustee must do:

  • Reset and straighten all monuments
  • Level and seed the ground
  • Construct fences
  • Destroy detrimental plants, noxious weeds, and rank vegetation
  • Mow the lawn

IC 23-14-78-4 – The owner of record of a parcel of real property that contains a cemetery must make a reasonable effort to maintain a cemetery on their property.

Criminal Law (Offenses Against Property)

IC 35-43 - Criminal Mischief - Allows for a person to be convicted under the criminal mischief law if they vandalize a cemetery.

Property Tax Law

IC 6-1.1-6.8 - A person with a cemetery on his/her land may have the value of the land (where the cemetery is located) assessed at $1 per acre.

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