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Funerals/exhumation of cremated remains

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Question
My husband passed away 18 years ago in an accident where I was severely injured. I was only 19 and knew little of my legal rights as his spouse and my state of injury left them able to take advantage. He was cremated and buried in a churchyard in Wisconsin at his parents demand, even though I was moving back to Texas. I want his remains as I always have and now that my daughter is older, I am ready to get him. I want to put some ashes in jewelry for myself and a few other loved ones. His parents aren't going to be ok with this. What is legally necessary for me to exhume the remains and bring him home to Texas?

Answer
Just out of curiosity, have you remarried? If so, that may have thinned your rights. But check with the sexton of the church cemetery and explain your wishes. If they give you a hard time, tell them you will go to Probate Court. In most states you don't need a lawyer to go to Probate. Ask the Probate Court for an order allowing you to move the cremated remains. That should do it if you can't get them with informal arrangements.

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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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