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Funerals/Brother cremated remains


I really don't know where to turn, but I'm asking this question for my mother. My brother passed away recently and was cremated.  My sister-in-law filed a county permit in CA to have his ashes split 3 ways with my mom getting 1/3 of his ashes.  My mom called the funeral home to arrange retrieval of his ashes and they said that my sister-in-law already picked them up and said she told them she would take care of it (they assumed delivering them to us).  My brother and sister in law weren't really together and she has always been against us.  She hasn't returned any of my mom's phone calls, so we think she isn't planning on giving them to her.  Does my mom have any legal rights to the 1/3 remains if the permit was filed under my mom's name/location?

That's a very unique question, as typically a spouse has full control unless there are written wishes of the deceased. But California has funny laws unlike other states. It would certainly seem that if the permit states that 1/3 are to go to your mother, that the state might help enforce that. Alas, I don't remember seeing penalties for not complying with the permit. Your mother should check w. the Cemetery and Funeral Board.

Do let me know, as I'd like to find out how the states respond to their own laws. My direct e-mail is


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Lisa Carlson


Funeral Law. Having written a 512-page book on funeral law for consumers with state-by-state information, I am very conversant with consumer rights in this regard: What are the laws on disposition of cremated remains? Is embalming required? Do I have to use a funeral home? Can I have a home wake? Is it a state law to buy a vault? I prepaid for a funeral but changed my mind. They won`t give me all my money back. What can I do? . . . If you have an immediate need for information because a death has just occurred or is about to occur, you may call me at 802-482-6021.


I have monitored the funeral industry on behalf of consumers for over 20 years. I have been a guest speaker to funeral trade organizations, consumer workshops, and social service professionals. I am regularly consulted by lawyers and legislators as well as journalists.

Funeral Ethics Organization ( Funeral Consumers Alliance (

Caring for Your Own Dead (1987) Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love (1998) I Died Laughing: Funeral Education with a Light Touch (2001) Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death (2011) with co-author Joshua Slocum

Masters degree in Administration and Special Education

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Available as an expert witness for funeral-related court cases.

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