Specifying the Disposition of Your Remains

If you have ever needed to help make decisions about the funeral and disposition of remains after a loved one has died, you understand how many details there are in the process. You may also understand how difficult it can be to make any decision in the wake of a death. Grief makes choices challenging. You feel the weight of the responsibility to make the “right” choices for the loved one who can no longer express their wishes.

It doesn’t need to be that way. You can avoid placing that responsibility on the shoulders of your loved ones by expressing your precise wishes for the disposition of your remains in advance. Work with an estate planning attorney to make these decisions part of your estate plan.

Attorney Chelsea Redding helps clients and their families express their wishes for what happens to their bodies after they pass away. If you live in Southlake, Keller, Flower Mound, Colleyville, Tarrant County, or Denton County, Texas, contact Redding Law Office for all your estate planning needs.

What Is Involved in the Disposition of Remains?

The disposition of remains is simply how your body is handled following your death. When you die, your loved ones will be asked what you want done with your body. If you can consider how they will be feeling at that moment, you can understand how much easier it will be for them to respond to that question if you have expressed your wishes in your estate plan.

What Are My Options?

There are four broad categories of disposition of remains and options within those categories.

Burial

Burial options include an in-ground burial or an above-ground burial. The in-ground or “earth” burial requires a cemetery plot, usually with a marker or headstone. What type of casket is required and whether a vault for the casket is required depends on the cemetery. With an above-ground burial, your casket is placed in a vault or in a mausoleum.

Cremation

Cremation reduces the body to bone fragments and residue. Most people associate cremation with the burning of the remains in intense heat without the need for embalming or a casket. This method is known as “direct cremation.”

Alkaline hydrolysis employs mostly water combined with a small amount of alkaline chemicals, heat, and in some cases, pressure or agitation, to dramatically speed up the natural decomposition of the body. It’s more environmentally friendly than direct cremation and is an option for those who are uncomfortable with the idea of burning the body.

Natural gas cremation is considered a “greener” method of direct cremation by using more environmentally-friendly natural gas instead of electricity as the power source.

Whole-Body Donation

Those who want to leave their bodies so others can learn from them should consider whole-body donation for the disposition of their remains. Medical schools, research institutions, and even law enforcement agencies use cadavers for scientific research.

Organ Donation

You can also choose to donate your organs upon death. The ability to harvest organs depends on the circumstances of your death and whether any will be useful for transplantation or for medical research. If you choose this route, you will also need to decide how you want the rest of your body to be disposed of.

If I Am Cremated, Can My Ashes Be Spread Anywhere?

After your body is cremated, the remains will usually be placed in an urn or box. Some loved ones keep them in the urn. In other cases, the cremated remains may be placed in a mausoleum. If you would like to have your ashes spread, there are some things you should know.

Although cremated remains are mostly mineral and harmless to the environment, there are federal, state, and even local rules for how and where ashes can be spread.

Ashes can be spread on private property with the written permission of the property owner. This would include such places as a private golf course, a field, or a pond. If the spreading of ashes is not permitted by the owner, you cannot spread them there.

If you want them spread on public property, including federal property, it may be allowed; however, you may need a permit to do so. Check with the local municipality if you want your ashes spread in a park or with the appropriate federal authority if you want them scattered on federal land.

Many people like the idea of having their ashes spread at sea; however, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has regulations for doing so. Regulations permit spreading ashes no closer than three nautical miles from shore, so your loved ones will need transportation far enough out to sea. There are vessels you can charter with crews experienced with this type of disposition.

You can have your ashes scattered from the air as well, such as from a plane or a hot-air balloon; however, you should hire a company that knows how to do this safely. The dropping of the urn, container, or any other object other than ashes is a violation of federal law.

Veterans qualify for various military rites and ceremonies regarding the disposition of remains. Also, the U.S. Navy will provide a burial at sea for active or honorably discharged veterans at no charge to the family.

Getting Experienced Legal Guidance

Many people tell loved ones what they want to happen when they die but providing the details as part of an estate plan is the best way to ensure your wishes are carried out. It also allows them to grieve their loss.

If you live in Southlake, Texas, or in the surrounding communities, call Redding Law Office today to schedule a time to talk about the disposition of your remains and your estate plan.


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