When someone dies – who’s in charge? Who gets to make decisions on what is done with the body? What if one person wants cremation and another is opposed to it? If a married couple is separated and one dies – does the survivor have first rights or would a son or daughter’s rights prevail? Situations like these (and many other) present themselves on a regular basis. So what does the funeral director do? Flip a coin? No – in Indiana, the law is specific as to the order of who is in charge, or using legal terminology, who has “right of disposition”. It’s found under IC 29-2-19-17.
Before getting technical, the most common order of this “right of disposition” (without legal exceptions) is usually seen like this:
1st Husband or wife
2nd Son or daughter
3rd Father or mother (or both)
4th Brother or sister
That’s the broad generality. Now, I will list the technical aspects of the Indiana law. Notice that the surviving spouse is now 4th in line. There are other interesting aspects that come in to play.
By law, this is the order that is considered:
1st A person named in a funeral planning declaration (I will cover this in a future blog – stay tuned!)
2nd A person named in a DD Form 93 (if the decedent died while serving in the military)
3rd A person specifically granted the authority in a power of attorney or health care POA
5th Surviving adult child (if more than one adult children, the majority); less than half can have rights if the adult children have used reasonable efforts to notify the others and are not aware of any opposition to the final disposition instructions by more than half of the children
6th Parent or parents; if one of the parents is absent, the one who is present has rights if reasonable efforts were used to contact the absent parent
7th Sibling; if more than one, same rules apply as multiple children
8th A person in the next degree of kinship; if more than one person in same degree of kinship survives, same rules apply as multiple children
9th Step-child; if more than one, same rules apply as child
10th The person appointed to administer the decedent’s estate
11th Any other person willing to act
Will you be in charge of arranging someone’s final plans? Who will be in charge of your final plans? One thing that you can do to solve a multitude of issues later – is to plan ahead. Call Meacham and speak with Andrea, a licensed funeral director. There is no cost or obligation. You owe it to yourself and those you love.