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Burial or Cremation? Who Decides?

burial or cremation estate planning

One question that often comes up in Estate Planning work is what happens to your body after you’re gone. Family members sometimes are not sure what your wishes were.

I’ve often gotten calls from people, one of them recently, where a woman’s brother died and his girlfriend, that he had lived with had certain thoughts about him being buried, and the sister knew he wanted to be cremated. So she called to find out what the answer would be, who has the rights to dispose of his body. So there’s a couple of different ways to handle this.

Obviously in terms of what happens to your body, there’s different options. Burial, Cremation, there’s environmentally friendly options today and, even composting. So it’s important for us to discuss these things with out family and friends so that they know what our wishes are. Even if you don’t do that, you can put it in writing and you can actually designate a person to be in charge of your remains so that there’s no dispute or fighting and, you can let your wishes be known.

That document is authorized by New York State statute in Public Health Law, section 4201, and it allows you to designate a person to be in charge, it also allows you to say what you want to happen to your body when you are no longer here.

It’s difficult to discuss this with people and it is not a topic that most people want to think about. It’s hard enough to get people to plan their estates, never mind to decide what’s going to happen with their remains when they’re not here.

But it’s important to leave advanced directives because in this particular situation, the girlfriend thought one thing and the sister thought something different. And ultimately what it comes down to is, if you don’t leave a directive, there is a state statute, the same one that authorizes the documents I mentioned, that says who has the rights. So in this instance, if there were no parents alive, the siblings have the rights. So the sister got to decide what would happen and the girlfriend, unfortunately was not happy with the result. But when it comes down to it, we do have to have rules that determine what happens. The best thing to do when you do your estate planning, ask me or whoever you use for your estate planning to give you a document that allows you to designate someone to dispose of your remains. That will solve the issue for all concerned and avoid a lot of frustration for everyone.

If you are in need of an experienced Estate Planning attorney to handle your estate, please contact Leonick Law today.

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