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Funerals/Unauthorized cremation

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Question
My mother I law bought a prepaid funeral plan.  She initially requested immediate cremation but a few years later changed her mind.  We have this in a letter from the funeral home. When she died she had dementia and put a man we didn't know as her POA.  This man signed the cremation authorization and added items to her funeral plan upping it $2400.00.  Now the funeral director is taking us to court .  They cremated her immediately.  We had to call the funeral home to meet with the director.  He never called us.  When we went there he informed us she had already been cremated.  This man also picked out who would do readings, offertory, etc.  we had no say in anything.  My husband and son are her only living relatives.  It tormented them both to not be involved.  One person who did a reading stood up at the funeral home and bashed my husband and son for 10 minutes on how they weren't there for her and that's why she died. We have never met this woman before. Do we have grounds to sue for unauthorized cremation?  Canada sue the POA for taking over the funeral plans, adding to the funeral bill and having people we didn't know involved in the wake and funeral? We wrote the state board of mortuary science.  The funeral director was found quillty of 6 state codes but only got a warning.

Answer
In Iowa, a person may name someone other than the next-of-kin to handle funeral arrangements, so unfortunately that man had a right to make or change the funeral plans and you wouldn't win any such suit.

Because the funeral director dealt with the man your mother named, that person is responsible for any addition to the bill NOT the children. Tell the funeral director to show you where your husband signed for any responsibility. Nada, from what you tell me.

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Lisa Carlson

Expertise

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.

Experience

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.

Organizations
Funeral Ethics Organization (www.funeralethics.org) Funeral Consumers Alliance (www.funerals.org)

Publications
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

Education/Credentials
Masters degree in Administration and Special Education

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

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