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Funerals/legal rights to the cremains


My husband passed away almost 2 years ago and I have not had his ashes buried yet but am in the process of getting the burial planned now. My sister in law and my step son are both demanding that I give them the ashes or at least half of them. My family or myself paid all but $50.00 of the funeral expenses. He passed away in Arizona and I brought him back to Indiana for a funeral. I have told them that I am willing to share a small portion of the ashes but that I am not purchasing any containers and that they would be responsible for that. They still demand all or at least half or they will take me to court. I am under the understanding that since I am the surviving wife, that it is my choice what is done and if they are shared. I found this site and figured I would ask someone that might know and be able to clarify for me how this really works. Thanks

What terrible bullies! You are ABSOLUTELY RIGHT that as the spouse you are the legal next of kin and get to decide all funeral arrangements. How generous of you that you are willing to share even some of the ashes. They won't find a lawyer to take the case and surely Probate Court would throw them out. I'd tell them "So sue me."


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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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