Changes to burial procedures discussed

The Judiciary Committee heard testimony Feb. 27 on a bill dealing with burial procedures.

Hastings Sen. Les Seiler introduced LB441, which would amend the Burial Pre-Need Sale Act and the control of remains upon a person’s death.

The bill would:
• allow individuals who are 18 years or older to dictate the disposition of their remains;
• create a standard notarized affidavit granting another person the right to control disposition of remains;
• allow relatives who are in disagreement to petition the court to determine disposition;
• set the order for the right of disposition as it passes down through kinship and establish a majority rule when there are two or more persons of equal kinship;
• allow the court to award the right of disposition to the person determined to be most fit and appropriate; and
• forfeit the right of disposition in instances of first or second-degree homicide, divorce, estrangement and missing or uncooperative relatives.

Under the bill, funeral directors would be allowed to:
• arrange the final disposition of the unclaimed remains by attesting in writing that good faith efforts to contact individuals have failed;
• refuse disposal requests when a disposition dispute is ongoing; and
• petition the court for disposition and include legal fees and court costs in the cost of the final disposition.

Criminal and civil liability protections also would be provided for funeral establishments acting in good faith on predetermined burial instructions.

Many complicated issues arise upon a person’s death, Seiler said, so the bill would provide clarity for families and others involved in the decision-making regarding a decedent’s remains.

William Lauber, a funeral service practitioner in Milford, testified in support of the bill. Allowing funeral directors to have disposition of remains in instances in which disputes are ongoing or the remains are unclaimed would eliminate issues that delay the funeral process, he said.

Gregory Easley, president of the Nebraska Cemetery Association, also testified in support, and said families sometimes have issues determining who is in charge of the decedent’s cemetery property.

An affidavit authorizing disposition of the decedent remains could reduce animosity among family members over the decedent’s burial property, he said.

Don Wesley of the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys testified in opposition to the bill and said that funeral establishments should not be immune from criminal and civil liability.

John Liakos, representing the Nebraska Organ Recovery System, also testified in opposition to the bill. The right of disposition provisions could conflict with current laws allowing certain people to receive anatomical gifts, he said.

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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