Beaufort North Carolina Lawyer Cecil S. Harvell

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Estate lawyers are often times asked who has the ultimate authority over the body, the funeral, cremation and or burial arrangements of their loved one.  We realize that many of you reading this are the lucky ones and are in fortunate families where no conflict arises.  However, at times there are conflicts between family members as to the authority over the body and the final arrangements and if so, the estate lawyer inevitably receives an inquiry.


Basically, a person’s authorized agent is in charge of a person’s body after death. 


More specifically, when documents exist which indicate the authorized agent, then you must consider the type of document. If validly executed, these documents control who holds the authority and dictate what to do with the body. If there is more than one of these documents, then they are to be evaluated in the following order of priority:


1. Preneed funeral contract

2. Cremation Authorization form

3. Health Care Power of Attorney under NCGS Chapter 32A - Article 3

4. A Written Will properly executed according to State law

5. Written statement, other than a will, signed by the individual and two witnesses

6. United State Department of Defense Record of Emergency Data, DD Form 93 or later version. Although this is last on the list, IF the circumstances described in 10 U.S.C. §1481(a)(1) through (8) have occurred, it takes precedence over all other forms. [See 10 U.S. Code §1481 “Military Death”]


As always, if there are any questions, please do not hesitate to call and ask your question.


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