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Funerals/cremation by guardian

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Question
My question is does an emergency guardian have the right to authorize the spouse of the wards cremation. My father was recently cremated without my knowledge. My sister kept from me the knowledge that my father had died. He died at the Nursing home where she is employed as Director Of Nursing. When I read of y fathers death notice, I went to the listed funeral home and found that he had already been cremated within 30 hours of his death. Subsequently I was served papers that my sister had obtained an emergency guardianship of my mother who also is a resident in this same nursing home.  I'm pretty this guardianship  was used to authorize my fathers creation. My father had only the two children. I was told both children would need to sign to authorize creation. This took place in North Dakota. What are the laws in North Dakota. The District Attorney is opening and investigation into other parts of this situation. Is there any liability here for my sister or the Funeral Home?

Answer
Is your mother mentally alert? If so, she could indeed authorize the cremation without the children's permission. That said, I'm guessing the guardianship gave your sister the right to authorize the cremation. If disposition doesn't occur within 48 hours, the body would have had to be embalmed, so cremating in 30 hours was a practical decision.

Did your parents have much in the way of assets--money or real estate beyond the cost of the nursing home? If so, good for you for asking the DA to look into it.

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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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