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What happens to your body if you leave no instructions?

Posted by Gregory Poulos | Sep 17, 2014 | 0 Comments

The State of Arizona has several laws that helps determine what happens to your body when you die. Arizona law states that the surviving spouse may make final decisions about your body and funeral services. If your spouse has passed away before you or you are divorced, then the right is granted to family members in an established order … agent under health care power of attorney, adult children, parent, and so on.

But what happens if your children or parents don't know your wishes ahead of time? What happens if your mother wants to ship your body out of state to be close to be buried next to your father, but your daughter wants you to buried close to her? You can imagine the family disharmony that would occur under already trying circumstances. That's why part of your estate plan should address your wishes regarding your funeral and burial.

Specifically, you require a will with a named executor — someone who has the authority appointed by the court to carry out your written instructions regarding your funeral arrangements and the disposition of your body. You might even consider including instructions on what you want your obituary to say.

Other things to note about Arizona burial laws…
• Your family members are not required to hire a funeral director, meaning your body can be brought home or taken directly to the cemetery. However, family members will be required to fill out a death certificate, which must be filed with the state registrar within seven days.
• Arizona law requires that a body be embalmed or refrigerated only if final disposition does not occur within 24 hours.
• Arizona law also requires a permit to transport the body — either to the home, the cemetery or out of state.
• If you have choosen to be cremated, your family must hire a funeral director as required by Arizona law.
• If you need assistance selecting a funeral home or cemetery, you might look at the Arizona Funeral, Cemetery, and Cremation Association website at or look at — one of the oldest and most comprehensive dedicated funeral home directories in the country.
• In an odd side note, you'll be glad to know that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed emergency legislation in 2011 that bars protests within 300 feet of a funeral and within an hour from its beginning or end.

About the Author

Gregory Poulos

Meet Greg PoulosAn Experienced Estate Planning & Business Attorney serving the Phoenix AreaGregory Poulos counsels clients on the best strategies for accomplishing their estate planning and business goals. Greg starts by “Putting His Clients at Legal Ease” so that they understand the legal issues...


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