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My Grandmother recently pasted, there is a disconnect with one of my uncles. He refuses to let anyone into my grandmothers house to get her insurance papers and just tells us that her insurance lapsed. He has an adult protective service file against him for neglecting and abusing my grandmother. Needless to say my mother is having to pay for my grandmothers funeral does she have the right to have a private service and not allow my uncle to attend..

Dear Jack,

I'm sorry you're having to manage this type of challenge in such a trying time.

While there are obviously some personal issues complicating the matter, your question about whether or not the uncle can be prohibited from the service is one that seems clear: if the service is taking place on private property - i.e., the funeral home - and your mother is paying to rent their space for the service, then it seems as though she should be able to decide whether or not the service is open to just anyone. There is no statute that I know of guaranteeing family members' access to a funeral service. The funeral home is the only one that can answer this question for her.

It's also possible for your mother to consider inviting the brother anyway, and identifying whether or not this is a moment where some family healing could take place. Denying your uncle the right to come to the funeral of his mother also has its consequences, and so it's going to be a tough call to make, either way.

Your mother may want to consult an attorney specializing in elder care to determine whether or not she has any recourse as regards getting proof the insurance policy did indeed lapse. There may be an appointed guardian or someone who has legal access to the papers - the attorney would know. If the insurance did lapse then yes, the family must pay the bill - if not, the beneficiary of the policy gets the money and may or may not be obligated to cover funeral expenses with it. The policy would make that clear, and an attorney may be needed to help enforce it.

In the meantime, it's a good reminder to all of us that making funeral plans visible to the children can save a lot of heartache down the road. It may be a difficult subject to talk about before someone's died, but it's a lot harder to talk about it after they're gone!

good luck.


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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 Sustainable Cemetery Management Group. Over 25 years in the natural products industry, and 9 years running the Natural Burial Company. 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.

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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