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My Siblings and I Cannot Agree. Who Has The Right to Control The Final Disposition of My Mother?

Family disputes occasionally arise over funeral arrangements.  This may be due to family disharmony, religious, monetary, or other reasons.  If a dispute arises over the final disposition, the best thing to do is see if the matter can be resolved by settlement.  

If the matter cannot be resolved through a settlement or agreement, California Health and Safety Code Section 7100(a) governs who is in charge.  The following people, in this order, have the right to control the decedent's remains:

  • An agent under the power of attorney for healthcare;
  • Decedent's competent spouse;
  • Decedent's competent children;
  • Decedent's surviving parents;
  • The surviving adult persons in the next degree of kinship; and
  • The public administrator when there are sufficient assets.

If you and your siblings cannot agree on what happens to your mother's body and your mother did not have written instructions (and there is no surviving spouse), the majority of her children are in agreement or you have made reasonable efforts to notify your siblings of the arrangements you have made and do not know of any objections.

Sometime a mortuary will want all of the children to be in agreement before they will agree to perform the cremation or funeral services.  If there is disagreement between the siblings, a petition may need to be filed with the Court to obtain an order to enforce your rights.  Sometimes a letter to the mortuary from an attorney to the mortuary explaining the law or mediating the dispute informally with the family members can resolve the issue.  Other times getting the Court involved will be necessary.   Speaking to an experienced attorney when there is a disagreement can help you evaluate your options so you can make an informed decision how to best proceed.  


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