A major funeral services firm has asked the federal government for a thrift charter.

According to an application made public by the Office of Thrift Supervision Thursday, Hillenbrand Industries Inc., Batesville, Ind., wants to offer trust services nationwide through a federal thrift.

"People often want to pay for their funeral in advance," said Mark E. Plotkin, a partner with Covington & Burling who prepared the Nov. 18 application. "Hillenbrand thought it could fill a niche market by chartering a thrift that would manage those funds."

Hillenbrand owns the world's largest coffin manufacturer, Batesville Casket Co. The $3.4 billion-asset firm also owns a funeral planning firm, a hospital supply manufacturer, and a lock company, the application said.

In addition, the company owns Forethought National TrustBank, a limited- purpose institution in Batesville that already manages trust funds set aside for funerals. However, Mr. Plotkin said the thrift charter offers more flexibility to market trust services nationwide than the national bank charter.

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