Iowa End of Life Guide

Advance Directives 

Advance Directives are legal documents that allow you to make known your end-of-life care ahead of time. The state of Iowa recognizes your right to decide the terms of your own medical treatment and to assign a person to make those decisions when you are not able to do so. 

Here are some important questions to consider before beginning this process:

  • Is this document(s) state specific? No

  • Does this document(s) need to be notarized? Yes*

  • Does this document(s) require witnesses? If so, how many? Yes / 2

  • Can you legally use Aging With Dignity's 5 Wishes DocYes

* Document can have either notarization OR witnesses 

There is a single Advance Directive form for Iowa that you can download by clicking the button below:


(Source: Iowa State Bar Association)

Death with Dignity

Death with Dignity laws allow the dying more control of their death and end-of-life decisions. These laws allow terminally-ill, able-minded state residents to request and receive prescription medication to hasten their death.

In Iowa, Death With Dignity legislation has not been passed nor submitted under a House or Senate bill.

Designated Funeral Agent

Iowa law supports the appointment of a designated funeral agent to follow through on your written personal preferences (see below) or make funeral arrangements on your behalf if no written preferences are indicated.

Iowa Code 144C.5.1.a states, "The right to control final disposition of a decdent's remains or to make arragement for the cermony after a decedent's death vesits in.... A designee, or alternate designee, acting pursuant to the decedent's declaration."

The Funeral Consumers Alliance notes that this form MUST be attached to a Durable Health Care Power of Attorney for it to be effective.

The appointment of a designated funeral agent will override the next-of-kin's usual authority and let the citizen designate whom he/she wants to control the disposition of his body.


Financial Assistance

The county's Health & Human Services department may pay some burial expenses following the death of a person receiving state supplementary assistance or who received assistance.

See our Financial Assistance Chart for more details.

Home Funeral

Iowa is one of 10 states that does not allow the family all power in home funerals or has conflicting law, necessitating the use of a funeral director for some purposes. Iowa recently changed its law to disallow local registrars from being able to supply burial transit permits, thus forcing families to hire funeral directors or engage medical examiners to file for them.

Check with the National Home Funeral Alliance for up-to-date details on how to navigate home funerals in Iowa and when it is required to involve a licensed funeral director.

Personal Preference Law

Personal preference laws for body disposition obligate your survivors to follow your written [or verbal] personal preferences. This often goes hand-in-hand with designating a funeral agent to follow through with your funeral or body disposition preferences.

In Iowa, there is not a law obligating your survivors to follow your personal preferences. However, we always recommend outlining your funeral preference in writing and sharing them with your designated funeral agent, next-of-kin, or spouse, giving you the best chance of having them seen through or upheld in the courts.