So my brother pre-paid and pre-arranged his funeral. He wanted to be buried. The day of his funeral his estranged son came and claimed the ashes even though the plan was for burial. Did he have a right to do that, and was it handled wrong by the funeral home. Basically we all had to leave without going to cemetery. Grave was dug up and was paid for
I am very sorry that your brother’s full wishes were not carried out as he planned, and clearly this is rather upsetting. This is a bit complicated and while we do not give legal advice, hopefully we can provide some information that will help to point you in the the right direction for next steps.
If your brother prepaid for a cremation, that contract likely did not include the burial fees at the cemetery, and it sounds like you paid that separately to the cemetery. That is normal, as the burial fee is a cemetery charge and not typically itemized on a prepaid funeral contract. With cremation, all states require that a cremation authorization be signed in order for the cremation to actually take place. Requirements can differ by state, but this is often the “next of kin”, so if your brother wasn’t married at the time he died, then usually his children are the next in line (and this means all of them, if he had more than 1 child.) Now, it may be the case that PA has a law that allowed your brother to name someone other his next of kin to authorize the cremation when he made his plans, as it doesn’t sound like his son was present until the day of the funeral.
However, his son is most likely still considered his next of kin (even if estranged), in order to claim the ashes. State legislation outlines much of this. Did the funeral home know you had a burial planned? They likely did not do anything wrong in allowing his son to claim the ashes, but it would definitely be worth speaking to the funeral director about this to let them explain what happened and why as a good next step.
Thank you for your response. All plans and payments were made directly to the funeral home including graveside service and opening of the ground.They in turn pay the cemetery. So they were well aware of all the intentions. The cremation documentation was Signed by my brother himself for his cremation.
Then definitely speak to the funeral director to have them explain their actions.
If you are unable to get answers from the funeral home, then your next step after that may be to contact the Pennsylvania Funeral Directors Association – check the Consumer Info section on their website for resources there that may help you in this matter.