Facing your own mortality is never easy. Imagine what world-famous Evangelist Billy Graham and his wife Ruth must be feeling as two of their sons squabble (now in public) over where they’re to be buried. The following is an excerpt from this AP report on the now-public family dispute:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The uncomfortable topic of where aging evangelist Billy Graham and his wife Ruth will be buried has moved into a public setting after a newspaper reported the family is split over the issue.
Mark DeMoss, a spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said Wednesday there has been no final decision on where the 88-year-old Graham will be buried after he dies – whether near his home in the mountains of western North Carolina or at a museum and library being built at the association’s headquarters in Charlotte, near where Graham grew up.
"Obviously, there has to be a decision at some point," DeMoss said. "Whether that would be in the coming weeks or just upon death, I don’t know. … It’s unfortunate that it was worked out in The Washington Post."
So what’s the probate-litigation angle?
As I reported here, at least one Florida appellate court (the 4th DCA) has held that a testator’s body is not considered “property.” As such, the general rule of construction found in Probate Code Section 732.6005(2) requiring Wills in Florida to be deemed to pass all property that the testator owns at death does not apply to bodily dispositions. Instead, the 4th DCA formulated the following rule regarding the disposition of a Florida testator’s body:
[A] testamentary disposition is not conclusive of the decedent’s intent if it can be shown by clear and convincing evidence that he intended another disposition of his body.
In other words, if the Grahams want to make sure they get the final word on where they’re going to be buried, they need to make sure they leave behind clear and convincing evidence stating exactly what they want to happen. Mrs. Graham has apparently already received advice to that effect, as indicated by the following excerpt from the linked-to story:
The Post reported that Ruth Graham recently wrote a notarized memo, witnessed by six people, that states her desire to be buried in the mountains.