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Answers on Iowa’s Final Disposition Act

In the course of managing the estate for yourself or a loved one, the specifics surrounding disposition is often confusing. Iowa law provides detailed answers, but after the death of an individual, family members and friends are often concerned with consoling one another and paying respects to the deceased. Burial, cremation, and other details need to be fully defined through proper estate planning procedures.

caring for the body after deathFor your convenience, we’ve put together a comprehensive overview of the Iowa Code for Disposition.

Chapter 144C of the Iowa Code, which was enacted in 2008, sets forth the Final Disposition Act which allows a person to name an individual who shall have the sole responsibility and discretion for making decisions concerning the final disposition of one’s remains and the ceremony plans after one’s death.

The words “final disposition” are defined to mean burial, internment, cremation, removal from the state, or other disposition of remains. Of course, the designee must be a competent adult. The Act also allows for alternate designees to be named in the event the primary designee is unable to act. The Declaration is not allowed to include directives for final disposition of remains and arrangements for ceremonies planned after death. The act allows the designation of an individual to manage these details.

In the event that no Declaration has been executed, the Act sets out a list of individuals who can make decisions regarding the decedent’s remains or arrangements for the ceremony after the decedent’s death. If no designee or alternate designee is named, the responsibility is assumed by the surviving spouse of the decedent whose whereabouts is reasonably ascertainable. If there is no surviving spouse, next in line is a surviving child of the decedent or, if more than one, the majority of surviving children whose whereabouts are reasonably ascertainable. The next in line are the parents of the decedent whose whereabouts are reasonably ascertainable, followed by a surviving grandchild of a decedent or, if more than one, the majority of the surviving grandchildren whose whereabouts are reasonably ascertainable, followed by a surviving sibling, or if there is more than one, the majority of the surviving siblings whose whereabouts are reasonably ascertainable and followed by the surviving grandparent of the decedent or, if there is more than one, the majority of the surviving grandparents whose whereabouts are reasonably ascertainable.

The Declaration should be in writing and should be contained in or attached to a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare. The document must be witnessed by at least two individuals who are not named in the document or acknowledged before a notary public. The Declaration is revocable. A dissolution of marriage, annulment of marriage or separation between the declarant and the declarant’s spouse subsequent to execution of the Declaration constitutes an automatic revocation of the spouse as a designee.

By executing the Declaration, a person can be assured that his or her decisions concerning the final disposition of his or her remains and the ceremony to be performed after his or her death will be honored.

If you need more information or are interested in executing a Declaration for Final Disposition, please contact our office.

by James D. Beatty