In 2014 the 4th DCA grappled with a tragic case I wrote about here involving a dispute between two divorced parents over the disposition of their deceased son’s cremated remains. The father hoped to split his son’s ashes 50/50 with his ex-wife by arguing they’re assets of his son’s probate estate, and thus subject to equal partition. The 4th DCA ruled against him in Wilson v. Wilson based on centuries of common law.
Appellate decisions are fine, but life’s a whole lot easier when a rule’s plainly stated in a statute, which is what finally happened. Effective July 1, 2016 the common-law rule on ashes not being probate property was codified in new F.S. 497.607(2) as follows:
Cremated remains are not property, as defined in s. 731.201(32), and are not subject to partition for purposes of distribution under s. 733.814. A division of cremated remains requires the consent of the legally authorized person who approved the cremation or, if the legally authorized person is the decedent, the next legally authorized person pursuant to s. 497.005(43). A dispute regarding the division of cremated remains shall be resolved by a court of competent jurisdiction.
This was one small change incorporated into a wide-ranging bill that revamped much of Ch. 497, which governs Florida’s funeral home industry. For a comprehensive summary of all of those changes you’ll want to read the bill’s Legislative Staff Analysis.
By the way, the statute’s last sentence should jump out to probate litigators.
A dispute regarding the division of cremated remains shall be resolved by a court of competent jurisdiction.
What this sentence is telling us is that the old rules regarding litigation over remains haven’t changed. If there’s a dispute, a person’s ashes will be disposed of according to his intent, as established by clear and convincing evidence (see here).