Tipton County families may face issues without death certificates

TIPTON, Ind. -- Indiana State Police are investigating Porter funeral home in Tipton County after four bodies were found decomposing and unrefrigerated. 11 others did not have death certificates. Police say the owner and funeral director, 62-year-old Kevin Porter, committed suicide.

We sat down with a local wrongful death attorney to learn what the responsibility is of a funeral home and a director when providing services.

“It’s a violation of public trust in the first part because a family is going through enough already in terms of losing a loved one,” said Cohen and Malad Partner, Attorney Daniel Chamberlain.

Earlier this month the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency Board learned Porter was operating with an expired license. “You have a contract. That contract is with the funeral home, and the funeral director is ultimately the person responsible to make sure that the contract is fulfilled,” said Chamberlain.

According to the Indiana Funeral Directors Association, a death certificate is performed by the local health department where the death took place and through the Indiana Death Registry System, which usually takes three to five days.

However, a funeral director who does not have an active license does not have access to that system.

Tipton County Sheriff’s Office reveals Porter’s license expired on December 31, 2018. He was last renewed in December of 2016. The state requires a funeral director to renew their license at the end of every even-numbered year. They are also required to provide an annual report of burials and cremations.

“Some of the risks involved with not issuing death certificates timely are: you can have someone steal the identity of the person who died, you can have failure to closure in terms of the family and the family not being able to pursue insurance coverage, and other things that may be available to them such as pensions, IRA’s and 401k’s,” said Chamberlain.

Chamberlain believes this creates more emotional distress for families after dealing with the loss of a loved one. Meanwhile, police still have many unanswered questions.

“The next step would be for the state police to go in and analyze exactly which individuals are refrigerated which individuals are not. And then figure out death certificates for all of them,” he said.

We’ve reached out to the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency Board to find out how Porter was still operating the funeral home for several months without a valid license.

Police say all families have been notified, and if you are one of the families affected, you can still properly lay your loved one to rest. Young- Nichols along with Taylor and Cowen funeral homes are offering free cremation and death certificates for those involved.

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