Ask a Question

Can family override my aunt's wish to be cremated?

Two of her kids were always part of her life, she even lived with one of them for 5 years and he took care of her and had power of attorney. She has told them she wants to be cremated and they are ok with it. Her other two kids who did nothing for her and can not pay a dime, do not want her cremated. The funeral home says we need three immediate family signatures before they can procede with cremation. What can we do if we are at a stalemate? It's just wrong that because her two uncooperative children want to cause problems that we cannot carry out her last wishes.
Status: Open    Jun 09, 2015 - 11:04 AM

End of Life

Do you have the same question? Follow this Question

4 answers

Expert Answers


Dec 18, 2015 - 09:51 AM

On the surface, this would appear to be an easy yes or no question. Unfortunately, this is a tricky question because it really does matter in which state you are being cremated. Some states allow you to authorize your cremation in writing, which would then take precedence over a family member’s objection. Other states require the legal next-of-kin to authorize cremation in all cases.

One very realistic aspect to keep in mind is our litigious society. You see, the dead do not sue in court! This means that even if the deceased did provide cremation authorization in writing in a state where this is authorized, a mortuary will more than likely side with the wishes of the legal next-of-kin to avoid any potential lawsuits. All it takes is for one family member to sue, and mortuaries are not willing to take that risk.

Another aspect to consider is the mortuary’s image. Mortuaries are always thinking of future business and public relations. Knowing this, the last thing the mortuary wants to do is upset a family -- then send that family into the community to share their negative experience. So if the choice is to honor the wishes of the dead family member who cannot complain one way or the other, or please a living family member who can then share positive reviews about the mortuary, most mortuaries will choose the second option.

An additional and dastardly consideration is the cost of services. Generally, cremations cost less than funerals, so if there is a chance that a mortuary can switch a cremation to a funeral, that mortuary has a strong financial incentive to do so.

The best way to ensure that your cremation will be honored is to have an advocate, preferably a legal next-of-kin such as a child, demanding that your wishes are honored. If you provide this advocate with a notarized document specifying that you want cremation, the mortuary will step out of the internal fight and wait for the family to work out the final decision. Sadly, the advocate may need to go to court with this notarized document in order to override the opposing family members.

Keep in mind that the ultimate cremation approval comes from the government whether it’s the medical examiner, coroner or some other agency. No cremation will occur regardless of the circumstances without authorization from the State.

Good Luck!


Jun 17, 2016 - 04:50 PM

I assume that your Aunt is still living and that you are a “nephew” , not one of the 4 kids mentioned.
I also assume that there are no other “immediate” family members to ask for the 3rd signature required.

Often, when someone makes a plan to be cremated after death and actually pays for the entire cremation services and fees in advance of death (including picking out an Urn and paying for it) the Funeral home adheres to and follows the wishes of the deceased.

I suggest you talk to the Funeral Home and ask the question if paying in advance will cement your Aunt's wish to be cremated, with or without the signatures required.

Another idea is to document the exact costs, in writing, of a Cremation vs. Funeral Service. Then show the family members the costs involved and ask if those opposed to their mother's wishes to be cremated are willing to pay the entire bill for a Funeral Service (which always costs more). Its amazing what happens to decision making when one sees the cost involved.

Furthermore, it is always easier to deal with making these kind of decisions before any life-changing event occurs and I encourage everyone to articulate their wishes and make some plans well in advance of the inevitable.


Jun 15, 2015 - 08:53 AM

Is she no longer able to make her wishes known?
Is the POA your brother had still in effect? They are normally still in effect unless she has revoked it?
If she can speak for herself it really doesn't matter what ANYONE else says.
The most important thing is that these types of issues must be in writing. This is a perfect example to demonstrate the importance of a living will.

Barb L.

Aug 23, 2015 - 07:38 AM

If she is still able she can go to the funeral home and prearrange the service she wants. She would also probably have to pay for the arrangements in advance but the good thing about that is once paid the price will not go up.
This way she can arrange the cremation she wants.
Answer this question

Recently Active Members