Who gets to decide where a deceased person is buried? This is a question highlighted in a recent Florida Times-Union article and, for people with complex family situations, the answer might not be what you want to hear.
The article highlights a number of battles over where deceased individuals are to be buried. In one family, a father was initially buried in a family plot with his first wife and other family members, until his second wife had his body exhumed and relocated. Since the two had been married at the time of his death, and he had not left instructions regarding his final remains, she was within her rights to have the body moved, even though other relatives protested.
So, what does Florida law say about burial rights? First, you can dictate what is to happen to your remains after your death, but you have to plan ahead and leave directions for this during your lifetime. What if you don’t leave instructions for your final arrangements? Then the decision passes to your family members. First in line is your spouse, if you’re married. If you’re not married, then your children get to decide. The law makes no provisions for unmarried partners to inherit the decision-making role.
Emotions run high when it comes to making these types of decisions, and disagreements among family members can turn into expensive and unpleasant court battles. The solution? Let your family know, in writing, what should happen to your body when you pass away. An estate planning attorney can help you take this step.