The right of sepulcher refers to "the right to choose and control the burial, cremation, or other final disposition of a dead human body. Until recently, the law for sepulcher in Missouri was based on the traditional family, giving a decedent's spouse, children, parents, and siblings highest priority - often even over the wishes of the decedent herself. A recent amendment to Missouri Revised Statute Section 194.119 now gives top priority for the right of sepulcher to "[a]n attorney in fact designated in a durable power of attorney wherein the deceased specifically granted the right of sepulcher over her body to such attorney in fact." Missouri's new approach gives a person more control over determining who can take charge of her burial and funeral arrangements. Yet a comparison to similar state statutes and relevant case law demonstrates that the Missouri legislature can and should do more to ensure that a decedent's wishes are met. The legislature should amend the law to (1) broaden the kinds of legal documents that are valid to dictate the means and agent for a decedent's final disposition and (2) instruct state courts to consider the decedent's actual personal relationships when determining in whom the right of sepulcher vests, if the decedent had not made burial arrangements ahead of time.
Kimberly E. Naguit,
Letting the Dead Bury the Dead: Missouri's Right of Sepulcher Addresses the Modern Decedent's Wishes,
75 Mo. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.missouri.edu/mlr/vol75/iss1/8