By Jason Stern
Last year over 42% of all human remains in this country were cremated. That is a 40 fold increase from the number of people cremated 50 years ago. The National Funeral Directors Association projects that in 2030 71% of all human remains in the United States will be cremated.
Despite the off-putting imagery cremation has elicited in the past it is unquestionably the future of the industry. From my experience as a NYC estate lawyer cremation has become the preferable alternative for estate clients with little or no family living in close geographic proximity. More and more families have found themselves migrating throughout the country over the past thirty years. As such many NY estate clients are either transplants from other regions with little or no family in the metropolitan area or have remained behind while they watched their own families scatter across the map. Either way these NY estate clients maintain few ties with their communities and often forego the expense of a costly burial with cremation.
While the cost of an average conventional funeral and burial can easily exceed $8,000.00 you can be cremated for less than a third of that cost. Despite its popularity cremation is still not without controversy. As a NYC estate lawyer I see more and more clients requesting cremation in their Last Wills and Testaments. Unfortunately cremation is not for everyone and can create both controversy and unwanted NY estate litigation.
For example the remains of 25-year-old Julie Mott were recently stolen from a San Antonio funeral home. Julie was born with the fatal disease, cystic fibrosis, which usually strikes its victims in their late teens or early twenties. Julie Mott wished to be cremated. Authorities and her funeral director believe her body was stolen after its viewing while her remains awaited cremation. Authorities believe an individual in attendance who knew the decedent and had strong feelings against cremation may have stolen her remains.
As a NYC estate lawyer I implore each of my clients who wish to be cremated to specifically state their intent within their will. Many people hold very strong beliefs about how remains should be laid to rest requiring clear directives to prevent anyone from interfering with those instructions when the time comes. Additionally, clients who anticipate problems within their family ahead of time can go a step further by having their attorney draft a statement of cremation. This is an easily identifiable legal document that most funeral directors should recognize and accept. Perhaps there is nothing sadder from a NY estate attorney’s standpoint than watching family tear each other apart over a person’s remains. On more than one occasion I have had to intervene as a NY estate attorney on behalf of a client whose family was refusing to allow the decedent’s body to be cremated. While fighting over estate assets is hard enough, as you can imagine, litigating over remains is emotionally draining on an entirely different level.
For anyone thinking about cremation the best place to start is with a will drafted by a NYC estate lawyer specifically stating that desire. If you or a loved one are thinking about planning your estate and would like to speak with a New York estate lawyer feel free to call The Law Offices of Jason W. Stern & Associates at (718) 261-2444 for a free consultation. Our Queens estate lawyers have over 50 years of combined NY estate law experience drafting and probating the wills for families like yours in the counties of Queens, New York, Kings, Bronx, Westchester, Rockland, Nassau, Orange, Dutchess as well as in the State of New Jersey.