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Funerals/Who has rights to place marker on my father's plot?

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Question
I paid the church cemetery for the plot when my dad passed, and I am the only next of kin. But his ex-wife beat me to the paperwork for a military marker. Because of how long the marker takes to make and ship, I was not made aware of this until I called the check the status of the marker, and was told one had already been delivered after being ordered by her. Problem is, she was not next of kin; the church (generational church that knows my family well) not only knew that, but had my contact info and signed her request for a military marker, and 3 weeks later also signed mine without telling me that they had done so or what she was up to. The church rep who signed both told the VA that she must have forged his signature on hers, but the VA says the signatures look identical, and he's behaving rather sketchy with me. And somebody at the church had to sign off to have her marker installed. This woman who gave me nothing but grief after my dad passed (claiming there was no divorce, not returning my calls, making me have to use out of state resources to prove the divorce to keep her hands off of his insurance) should not have been allowed to steal my final act for my father. I am heartbroken and angry. I paid the church $1500 to bury my father there, shouldn't they have consulted with me before installing anything? I cannot get the marker I wanted because the VA only issues one. Please advise one what I can do here, because it's a matter of principle.

Answer
I can certainly understand why you are angry. Can you afford to get the marker you want without the VA's help? If so, demand that the cemetery remove the marker that's there and install yours. If you explain the problem to the VA, might they issue the one you want? I would try, especially when the church was being irresponsible.

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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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