Who has rights to my Father-in-Law's cremains?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 16, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

First my mother-in-law is of very sound mind and currently lives in Iowa. My father-in-law died in 2010 and was cremated. At the time of his death my brother-in-law was assisting both my mother-in-law and father-in-law ; all 3 living in Texas. My brother-in-law at the time kept the ashes. Since then my mother-in-law has requested to have them back (has plans to spread the ashes in a way that is meaningful to her). The couple was married 60 years. Who has rights to these cremains? If my mother-in-law does any legal advice?

Expert Answers

Rebekah Peoples, CFSP, CPC, Is a licensed funeral director and embalmer. She is passionate about serving others and believes that giving clients honest, accurate information empowers them to create tributes and services that are meaningful and appropriate. Her tips about funerals and life can be found at www.funeral411.com.

As I am a funeral director and not an attorney, I can only offer suggestions based on my professional experience. Usually, the next-of-kin is legally entitled to a cremated body's ashes, which in this case, would be your mother-in-law.

If she hasn't asked for them, she might consider doing that in the presence of another person, giving that person a heads-up before doing it. That person can advocate for her and his/her presence will help him be more understanding as long as it's someone he respects.

If it's a matter of him not agreeing with what she plans to do with them, she might suggest that he be allowed to keep a portion of the ashes.

If however, she has asked for them and her son (your brother-in-law) refused, a call to an attorney would be helpful. Many give an initial consultation free of charge.