Rights to ashes

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Rights to ashes

My uncle passed away several years ago, taking his own life. At the time he was married to a horrible woman who he found out was cheating on him with another woman. She was leaving him for this woman, who she is now legally married to. She has one child with him, while his former wife has three. She refuses to give them any ashes, saying she paid for them and she has the right to decide. However, we know that she didn’t love him and feel that she contributed to his suicide. He committed this on the day she was moving her things out. Yes, they were still legally married when he passed, but is there anything we can do for his children to have a portion of the ashes? They have asked and pointed out that their father’s wishes wouldve been for all of his kids to have remains. She, however, doesn’t care. How can someone that so blatantly didnt care for our loved one have any legal rights? This is something that needs to be fixed.

Asked on November 19, 2017 under Estate Planning, Missouri


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

The problem is that, as you note, "Yes, they were still legally married when he passed." As his then-spouse, this woman would get the legal rights to his ashes unless he had a will which left them to someone else: if he did, then the terms of the will must be honored. The spouse gets control over the remains in the absence of a will to the contrary.

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