A Wisconsin bill that would establish a right of sepulcher looks bound for passage (AB 305). There are several things to like about this bill. It would establish an individual’s right to control the disposition of his or her body, and to designate an agent authorized to carry out that directive. The bill also provides the hierarchy of kin who may control the disposition in the absence of a directive from the deceased. In the event of a dispute between kin, the bill requires all concerned to be prepared to assume the financial responsibility for the disposition (avoiding the potential for a disgruntled family member from acting as a ‘spoiler’).
The bill also defines those individuals who may not serve as an designated agent for disposition. Funeral directors and cemeterians are precluded, as are hospice workers and clergy. I am puzzled by the exclusion of clergy and hospice workers from those who may be designated (unless related by blood. I have prepared estate planning documents that included a minister as the individual’s fall back choice for implementing his disposition directives. I could also see where individuals have established relationships with hospice workers and would trust them to carry out plans for disposition.
Perhaps the Wisconsin legislature was concerned about individuals who might have an undue influence on the terminally ill, but I do not understand the need to restrict an individual’s rights with regard to either clergy or hospice workers. I would welcome comments regarding these limitations.
But in any event, the bill will benefit Wisconsin citizens by providing the right to control one’s own disposition. If the bill is signed into law, funeral homes and crematories should evaluate their forms with regard to this bill and the Crematory Authority Act passed in 2005. Preneed contracts that contemplate cremation may want to include an authorization form that addresses both laws.