You have probably seen the news reports about the running legal battle between Kerri Kasem, the daughter of the legendary Casey Kasem, and Jean Kasem, Casey’s widow. While Casey was alive but in failing health, the battle was over his care. Now that Casey is gone, the battle has switched to what will happen to his body. According to a July 24, 2014 report published in the New York Daily News, the latest chapter in this saga has seen Casey’s body shipped to Montreal, the hometown of a gentleman with whom Jean has allegedly been “romantically linked.” Meanwhile, Kerri Kasem claims that her father had no connections with Montreal and that he had told a friend that he wanted his body to be buried in Southern California.
You may have heard other stories about family members feuding over similar issues. One faction wants the dearly departed’s body to be cremated, and another faction wants the body to be buried. What does the funeral home do in such circumstances? Until recently, undertakers had no choice but to wait on the sidelines until the dust kicked up by the family ruckus settled back to earth and a consensus was reached within the family or one side or the other obtained a court order. In the meantime, the body of the decedent (which is lawyer talk for “dead person”) did anything but “rest in peace.”
Here is the good news: Hawaii law now allows you to state precisely who has legal authority to make proper disposition of your remains after your death. Chapter 531B of the Hawaii Revised Statutes, which became effective in April of 2013, says that you may “provide written directions for the location, manner, and conditions of disposition” of your remains. The law also says that if you would prefer, you can appoint the person who will have the last word about your final resting place.
The law says that you can direct the “disposition” of your remains in your Will or your revocable living trust agreement, or by way of a notarized written statement of your wishes. If you want to appoint someone to be in charge of the “disposition,” you can do that in a notarized document (which could include your Will or your trust agreement).
Be sure to address this delicate issue as part of your estate plan. The directions you leave can be as simple or as elaborate as you would like, as long as they are otherwise lawful and as long as your estate can afford to pay for carrying them out.