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Funerals/One spouse deceased, one incarcerated... who has legal right to make burial decisions?


Hi, I will try to narrow my question down as quickly as possible. Basically my cousin's husband passed away and she is incarcerated, but will be released in two weeks. His mother, who absolutely despises her is making funeral preparations and does not want to wait for my cousin to be released to be a part of the memorial. Will a funeral home allow this to be done considering he has a spouse and if not, how would they know that he is married if the mother fails to mention that important detail? Also, if some how she gets away with it, what can be done?

Several questions: Were the couple at all estranged? Does the wife have the funds for a body burial funeral or cremation? Do you know if the deceased had written wishes for his funeral? Was the death sudden or expected? If expected (as in cancer), there's a section of the Advance Directives to be filled out about funeral wishes. The wishes of the deceased would prevail over the wife's.


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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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