Who Will Take Care Of My Remains When I Die?


It is a well-established fact that none of us will not get out of this life alive.  Many of our clients wonder, “Who will take care of my remains when I die?”  Some clients want to be buried in a specific cemetery, some want to be cremated and have creative ideas about the disposition of their ashes. We have clients who want to donate their body to medical research while others do not want to make a decision and trust the family will do “what is right.”

If you have an option about disposition of your remains, i.e., cremation, specific funeral service or even a certain mortuary, it is important you provide written directions regarding the disposition of your body.  This can be included in your Last Will and Testament or another written directive acknowledged before a Notary Public or executed in the same manner required by a Will.

If you specify your funeral wishes in your Will, you can change your mind without revoking or changing your Will.  You must provide specific written notice to your Personal Representative and to the mortuary, if you previously specified a particular mortuary.  This notice must be acknowledged as mentioned above.

Sadly, there are cases in which a decedent’s wishes were not honored by the family and costly litigation ensued.  In one case, a parent buried a child knowing the child had written a request to be cremated.  The child’s estranged spouse later tried to disinter the remains for cremation.  The courts became involved and the grief related to the loss of a loved one was compounded by the time and cost of the litigation.  Ultimately, the court determined the estranged spouse agreed to the burial which negated her ability to later argue the decedent’s wishes were to be cremated.

Another case involved Gary Coleman from the TV program “Diff’rent Strokes” who died in Provo, Utah in 2010.  Mr. Coleman’s ex-wife and his parents both claimed the right to make funeral plans, and were in the process of doing so, when his manager Dion Mial was able to provide written documentation which directed Mr. Mial to oversee the Coleman estate and funeral arrangements.  In that case, the parents stopped their efforts after they reviewed the estate planning documents and determined they would honor their son’s wishes.

If you do not specify your wishes in writing, Utah law provides that the surviving spouse will have the authority to determine your disposition.  If there is no surviving spouse, Utah law provides a list of alternates and a method of priority.  By outlining your wishes with a written directive, the family will be able to honor you without additional stress.

JensenBayles, LLP provides a broad spectrum of legal services.  Thomas J. Bayles has been actively providing advice in the areas of trusts, wills, probate and tax planning in the St. George market for over 18 years. Please visit our web site www.jensenbayles.com or call 435-674-9718 and ask for Thomas J. Bayles. The information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be construed as legal advice. Please contact an attorney for legal advice specific to your situation.