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Should you make your body part of your will?

Many residents in Oklahoma may not have considered making their body part of their will. Often, individuals think to include medical decisions, such as resuscitation or organ donor wishes, in end-of-life documentation. Based on a case in another state, individuals may want to consider including burial wishes in their wills.

According to court documents, a 23-year-old son of divorced parents died suddenly in another state. He reportedly left no verbal or written instructions for his burial, and he didn't have a will. According to reports, his parents were divided on where to bury his remains, though they did agree on cremation.

The man was not married and didn't have any children, so his parents are the only beneficiaries of his estate. They are also co-personal representatives of that estate.

Court documents show that the father petitioned the court to rule that the son's ashes were property. As property of the estate, the ashes could be divided equally between the parents, who could then do what they wanted with their half. The mother opposed this measure.

The court found that the remains were not legal property that could be divided. It also instructed the parents to carry out responsibilities as co-personal representatives of the estate by disposing of the remains. According to documents, the court said it would appoint a person to carry out the task if the parents could not make a decision.

It appears that the court was not denying the ability or right to divide the son's ashes between the parents, and left it open for the parents or an appointed designee to make such arrangements in the future if desired. However, the court did refuse to make the son's ashes a matter of legal property.

Grieving family members have much to deal with, and trying to decide on the best way to bury a loved one's remains can be stressful and emotional. By creating a will that covers your wishes, you remove that anxiety from your heirs.

Source: The Washington Post, "If a dead person’s heirs disagree about where to bury his ashes, should the ashes be split among them?" Eugene Volokh, May. 22, 2014

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