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Funerals/my mother's ashes


My mother passed away in 1990 shortly before my 5th birthday. She and my father were in the process of divorcing when she passed. My father was unable to pay for her funeral so her older brother, my uncle covered it all. I don't think my father ever tried to take possesion but I recall my uncle saying to me once that the reason he had them was because he paid for the funeral. In 2003 when I was 18 I asked muy uncle for her ashes. I'll never forget his response. "They're not for sale," he answered before hanging up on me.
My mother had another daughter; my older half sister whom was adopted by this uncle. I feel that she had no rights tho the ashes since legally my mother was her aunt. Not that she's expressed any interest. I'm going to ask my uncle for her ashes again and if he denies my request I'm wondering if I have any legal rights to her ashes. We live in MN. If I do have legal rights to any of her remains I'd be pro sť as I am disabled and cannot afford an attorney. I understand that these matters are heard in probate court in the county the person died in. Help.

Because your uncle paid for the cremation, he is entitled to the ashes.

You might consider asking him for a portion of the ashes and see if he will agree to that.

If not, you can certainly consider probate but I'm not very hopeful that you would prevail. Sorry.


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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

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Available as an expert witness for funeral-related court cases.

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