Funerals/mortuary law


A daughter of the deceased asks you to cremate her father.  she explains that her mother has been estranged from her father for years buy they are not divorced.  She also has limited funds.  she states that her mother would probably sign any paperwork but will not be responsible for the decedents funeral.  The daughter has five siblings but she has limited contact with them. She is not even sure what they would say about the cremation.  She "thinks that one sister might not like it but she is not  sure.    With you knowledge of kinship authority how would you answer the following questions.  How would you handle the authorization issue?  Who would you have sign the orders to cremate and what do you do about the siblings?   Who should have contacted them?  How about a release or waiver?  How will you get paid?  who is responsible for the cost?  What will you do about receiving the ashes?  Who gets them if no one picks them up.

I would ask the daughter to get a note from her mother, authorizing both the cremation and designating the daughter the power of attorney to handle things in her stead. Since the wife is the legal next-of-kin (tho' in Florida, estrangement is taken into consideration), the rest of the siblings do not need to be consulted. If the deceased had no assets, was he on Medicaid, so that possible state or county money would help with the cremation? The daughter handling arrangements should cover the financial obligations and receive the cremated remains.


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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

Past/Present Clients
Available as an expert witness for funeral-related court cases.

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