The recent highly publicized disputes over of the disposition of the bodies of James Brown and Anna Nicole Smith has lead me make an extra effort to ask clients about their wishes for cremation and/or burial. The wishes should not only be communicated to family members, but reduced to writing to provide evidence should family members later disagree. Besides including the instructions in a Will, it may make sense to include them in a Health Care Power of Attorney.
In North Carolina, a person can only authorize his or her own cremation in a Will, Health Care Power of Attorney, Preneed funeral contract, offical cremation authorization form, or a written statement witnessed by two people. In other words, a simple note in one's own handwriting, with no witnesses, is not valid. Click "Continue Reading" to view the NC law on cremation authorization.
§ 90?210.124. Authorizing agent. [For Cremation]
(a) The following person, in the priority list below, shall have the right to serve as an "authorizing agent":
(1) An individual at least 18 years of age may authorize the cremation and disposition of the individual's own dead body in a written will, pursuant to health care power of attorney to the extent provided in Article 3 of Chapter 32 of the General Statues, pursuant to a preneed funeral contract executed pursuant to Article 13D of Chapter 90 of the General Statutes, pursuant to a cremation authorization form executed pursuant to Article 13F of Chapter 90 of the General Statutes, or in a written statement signed by the individual and witnessed by two persons who are at least 18 years old. When an individual has authorized his or her own cremation and disposition in accordance with this subsection, the individual or institution designated by that individual shall act as the authorizing agent for that individual.
(2) If a decedent has left no written authorization for the cremation and disposition of the decedent's body as permitted under subdivision (1) of this subsection, the following competent persons in the order listed may authorize the type, method, place, cremation, and disposition of the decedent's body:
a. The surviving spouse.
b. A majority of the surviving children who are at least 18 years of age and can be located after reasonable efforts.
c. The surviving parents.
d. A majority of the surviving siblings who are at least 18 years of age and can be located after reasonable efforts.
e. A majority of the persons in the classes of the next degrees of kinship, in descending order, who, under State law, would inherit the decedent's estate if the decedent died intestate who are at least 18 years of age and can be located after reasonable efforts.
f. A person who has exhibited special care and concern for the decedent and is willing and able to make decisions about the cremation and disposition.
g. In the case of indigents or any other individuals whose final disposition is the responsibility of the State or any of its instrumentalities, a public administrator, medical examiner, coroner, State?appointed guardian, or any other public official charged with arranging the final disposition of the decedent may serve as the authorizing agent.
h. In the case of individuals who have donated their bodies to science or whose death occurred in a nursing home or private institution and in which the institution is charged with making arrangements for the final disposition of the decedent, a representative of such institution may serve as the authorizing agent in the absence of any of the above.
i. In the absence of any of the above, any person willing to assume responsibility as authorizing agent, as specified in this act.