The SafeEstates Blog

Substantive Tip – Who Controls Your Headstone?

In the Estate of Love involved a dispute over the name inscribed on the decedent’s headstone.  The litigants included the surviving spouse, adult children, biological father, biological mother and adoptive father.  The court decided the surviving spouse had the right of disposition of the decedent’s remains, including the right to control the inscription on the headstone.

Tennessee law provides the right to control the disposition of the decedent’s remains vests first in the decedent, but if the decedent leaves no specific instructions, the right of disposition vests in the following persons in the order named: (1) attorney in fact designated in a durable power of attorney for health care; (2) surviving spouse; (3) surviving child or children; (4) surviving parents; (5) surviving siblings; (6) surviving grandchildren; (7) surviving grandparents; (8) guardian; (9) personal representative; (10) next of kin; (11) responsible state official; and (12) any person willing to arrange the disposition.  If a person entitled to the right of disposition does not exercise the right within 72 hours, that person forfeits the right.

You can eliminate this type of confusion and dispute.  Sign an advance care plan designating your health care agent and giving specific instructions for the disposition of your remains, including funeral arrangements and the location, manner and conditions of disposition.