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Funerals/Can my children not sign any paperwork at the funeral home his sister chose?


My children's father passed away 1/17/13, with no will. His sister took it upon herself to not include my children in any of the funeral arrangements.

The sister went to the children's father's house a few days before he died and took all paper work, credit cards and anything of value and later claims that she found an insurance policy listing my children as the beneficiaries, the children are 20 and 22, and that the children should now pay all of the funeral costs.

We asked her for the information and she refused to give it to us, so we searched the internet and found a policy that the father stopped paying on in 2001, so there is no insurance coming to the children. We informed his family of the insurance situation and they state that the children should still be responsible for the costs and sign over any policies to them.

I called the funeral home to find out what was going on and was told that his sister has stated that no information be given to my children and that they would not be involved in the arrangements.

As it stands my children want nothing to do anything at this point. His family is stating now that my children need to sign the cremation papers at the funeral home. They do not want to be involved in the funeral or have anything to do with any paper work.

My children state that they did not authorize the sister to remove the body and have it sent to the funeral home she chose and since she has signed all paper work to start the funeral process, then sister or any of the other siblings should sign the cremation paper work and any of the other paper work that the funeral is asking for?

Are my children obligated to sign any paperwork and can his siblings sign what additional information the funeral home is asking for?

Any help would be appreciated.

Thank you

I'm sorry that you're experiencing difficulty. Incomplete planning - coupled with neglecting to include the impacted people in emergency "in the event of my death" situations - can make things very confusing and frustrating for all concerned.

Every State's laws are different with respect to legal next of kin, requirements for the Authorization to Cremate, and financial responsibility. Usually children are required to sign the AtC and the cremation can't proceed without it.

One of the first lines of defense in funeral consumer issues is often the Funeral Consumer's Alliance. Visit their national website at Look up your State in their directory and see if it has a chapter. If so, I'd start there with your questions about what's required in your area. If you don't get a satisfactory answer, or if there's isn't a Chapter, contact Joshua Slocum at FCA national and see what he says to try next.

You may need to get expert legal help if things escalate - however, working to have a peaceful resolution in this troubled time will be good for your children to watch you achieve by being level headed and fair, and the FCA may be able to help you here.

Once this is over, consider reviewing your own family's EOL planning arrangements, and ensure that you'll get what you do want and not leave others confused.

in trees,



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Cynthia Beal


Typical questions include 1) Where can I go for a natural burial? 2) What types of coffins, urns and other "packaging" are best for natural decomposition? 3)How do I plan for a natural funeral? 4) Do I have to be embalmed? and other questions in this vein. I'm available to answer general consumer questions about natural burial, home and natural funerals, and sustainable cemetery management. I answer questions about general cemetery matters, and offer suggestions about how to deal with remains, cremated or buried, interment rights, rules for cemeteries and plot owners, covering conventional as well as alternative options. I also answer questions from professionals, home funeral guides, and family members about how to manage a natural funeral either in the mortuary or at the home, how to best use natural coffins and urns, and how to convert cemeteries to natural, sustainable practices. I will answer questions from volunteer cemetery managers about how to offer natural burial in their rural, Pioneer, or non-profit cemeteries. If I don't know an answer I'll refer the questioner to someone who does. DISCLAIMER -- I am a certified pre-need sales person in the State of Oregon. I am not a licensed attorney, tax adviser, estate planner, funeral director, embalmer, accountant, public official, or any other professional that may be associated with issues the question brings up and any answers I provide should not be relied upon if such expertise is required by the asker (as per the All Expert suggestion). I provide my own personal opinions, based on my experience in business, Nature and its systems, and with human beings after 55 years of life on the planet.


Natural burial and sustainable cemetery management experience: I'm the founder of the Natural Burial Company and a member of the Cemetery Association of Oregon. Over 25 years in the natural products industry, and over a decade of running the Natural Burial Company, founded in 2004. I've done some consulting for existing and start-up natural cemetery operations. I'm currently an instructor at Oregon State University, facilitating the creation of a program in sustainable cemetery management and stimulating research in cemetery-oriented processes and functions, and I own two historic cemeteries the feature natural burial, based in Oregon.

ICCFA - International Cemetery, Crematory and Funeral Association Green Business Network Funeral Consumers Alliance

American Cemetery Magazine; Funeral Business Advisor; Real Goods Source Book; American Funeral Director Magazine, etc.

There is no degree in natural burials or funerals, and no accredited education provided for sustainable cemetery management. We're developing a program at Oregon State University but it hasn't fully launched yet.

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