Burial and Funeral Arrangements

Burial and Funeral Designations

Oklahomans have the right to designate their burial and funeral arrangements, and the person who knowingly refuses to follow those directions is committing a crime. I must admit, however, that I have never personally known of anyone who was indicted for this offense. The practical implication of this statutory provision is that you may choose to specify how and where you wish to be disposed of after their passing, but many may not know that they have this legal right until their lawyer tells them about it.

On the occasion where I am called on to memorialize such decisions, I generally suggest that the client consider putting their directions into a last will and testament if they are intending to draft such in any event. The advantage of this method is that the client is at liberty to invoke a financial penalty should their family choose not to follow their wishes and directives.

Remember, you may call on us for guidance and assistance with all of your probate and estate planning issues and questions.

The below statutes are in force on the day that I put them here but are subject to change at the whim of the legislature. Please assure that these are still in effect before you rely on them.

Oklahoma Statutes
Title 21. Crimes and Punishments
Chapter 47 – Human Remains and Tissue, Burial, Cemeteries, and Funerals
Section 1151 – Right to Direct the Disposal of One’s Body

A. Any person has the right to direct the manner in which his or her body shall be disposed of after death, and to direct the manner in which any part of his or her body which becomes separated therefrom during his or her lifetime shall be disposed of. The provisions of this article do not apply where such person has given directions for the disposal of his or her body or any part thereof inconsistent with these provisions.

B. A person may assign the right to direct the manner in which his or her body shall be disposed of after death by executing a sworn affidavit stating the assignment of the right and the name of the person or persons to whom the right has been assigned.

C. Any person who knowingly fails to follow the directions as to the manner in which the body of a person shall be disposed of pursuant to subsection A or B of this section, upon conviction thereof, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00).

 

Oklahoma Statutes Citationized
  Title 21. Crimes and Punishments
    Chapter 47 – Human Remains and Tissue, Burial, Cemeteries, and Funerals
Section 1158 – Right to Control Disposition of Remains – Persons in Whom Vested

The right to control the disposition of the remains of a deceased person, the location, manner and conditions of disposition, and arrangements for funeral goods and services vests in the following order, provided the person is eighteen (18) years of age or older and of sound mind:

1. The decedent, provided the decedent has entered into a pre-need funeral services contract or executed a written document that meets the requirements of the State of Oklahoma;

2. A representative appointed by the decedent by means of an executed and witnessed written document meeting the requirements of the State of Oklahoma;

3. The surviving spouse;

4. The sole surviving adult child of the decedent whose whereabouts is reasonably ascertained or if there is more than one adult child of the decedent, the majority of the surviving adult children whose whereabouts are reasonably ascertained;

5. The surviving parent or parents of the decedent, whose whereabouts are reasonably ascertained;

6. The surviving adult brother or sister of the decedent whose whereabouts is reasonably ascertained, or if there is more than one adult sibling of the decedent, the majority of the adult surviving siblings, whose whereabouts are reasonably ascertained;

7. The guardian of the person of the decedent at the time of the death of the decedent, if one had been appointed;

8. The person in the classes of the next degree of kinship, in descending order, under the laws of descent and distribution to inherit the estate of the decedent. If there is more than one person of the same degree, any person of that degree may exercise the right of disposition;

9. If the decedent was an indigent person or other person the final disposition of whose body is the financial responsibility of the state or a political subdivision of the state, the public officer or employee responsible for arranging the final disposition of the remains of the decedent; and

10. In the absence of any person under paragraphs 1 through 9 of this section, any other person willing to assume the responsibilities to act and arrange the final disposition of the remains of the decedent, including the personal representative of the estate of the decedent or the funeral director with custody of the body, after attesting in writing that a good-faith effort has been made to no avail to contact the individuals under paragraphs 1 through 9 of this section.

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