Disposition of Body Remains in Iowa

Many people may not think much about their bodily remains.  Some people, hopefully my clients, will at least discuss their preferences and express their wishes to family members of what to do with their remains.  Cremation? Bury? Where to bury? With whom? Toss in a ditch?

A recent Iowa Supreme Court case from September 2007 highlighted the issue that can arise.  In the Stark case, a dispute arose over where to bury poor Mr. Stark's body.  Mr. Stark had been buried for some time in a plot with his first wife, when his second wife decided that his particular location wasn't the best.  So Mrs. "Second Wife" has the body disinterred and reburied at another location.  The adult children from the first marriage didn't take kindly to this and objected like any true American...by filing a lawsuit.

The Iowa Supreme Court eventually determined that the statute permitted the surviving spouse the ability to do just that.  As a result, the adult children of Mr. Stark will have to wait until Mrs. "Second Wife" passes, at which time they can disinter poor ole dad-again-and move him back.

The Iowa Legislature is currently debating a change in the law.  Currently, there are two bills under consideration with very different positions.  A Des Moines Register article discusses the two bills, one which is supported by the Iowa State Bar Association and the other by the Iowa Funeral Directors Association.  One bill, Senate File 473, enables the deceased individual to make those decisions for his/her body prior to death.  The other bill, House File 2088, provides for an authorized list of individuals to make the decision for the deceased.  The funeral directors claim that providing for an optional document places too much of a burden on them, as opposed to just applying a list.

While it may make the funeral director's job simpler for the bill backed by the funeral directors, the disposition of one's remains is truly one's final decision for their resting place and an extremely important matter for many people.  Everyone should be entitled to choose what happens to their remains, not which is necessarily the simplest solution.
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Rush on Business - February 17, 2008 10:37 PM
Welcome to a RAGBRAI inspired Blawg Review. What is RAGBRAI? The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa is an annual seven-day ride across the state. Heading into its 36th year, RAGBRAI is the longest, largest and oldest touring bicycle...
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