Can a funeral home deny a child of the deceased visitation rights because the cost of the funeral home was paid by a sibling?

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Can a funeral home deny a child of the deceased visitation rights because the cost of the funeral home was paid by a sibling?

sn’t there an implied contract for all close/immediate relatives of the deceased to be able to visit the deceased in the funeral home, just like it would apply if the deceased were hospitalized in a comatose state? What responsibility does a funeral home have regarding visitation by relatives under New Jersey law? Or is it just okay for a funeral home to imprison a corpse even though the deceased expressly wanted to be visited before dying? Can the child denied visitation sue the funeral home for emotional damages for not been able to have closure since the child hasn’t seen the parent in a very long time?

Asked on June 7, 2015 under Estate Planning, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

First, there is no "implied contract" with anyone, child or otherwise, who is not party to a transaction, so if a child did not pay for the funeral, he or she has not say over it--including over the guest list, and no right to visitation rights unless the person(s) arranging/paying for the funeral want him/her to have such. Second, the deceased's pre-dying wishes have no control, unless they were put into a will: a will is the only way to have one's wishes carried out posthumously. Third, there is no suit for emotional damages when 1) there is no intent to cause emotional damages (the funeral home is not trying to harm the child  emotionally) and 2) there is no causality as to "closure," since the harm was done by the child not seeing the parent for a long time--which is something the funeral home had nothing to do with. And finally, the situation between a living person and a deceased is not at all analogous: a dead person is no longer a person in the eyes of the law for most purposes.


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