Law Update: Right Of Disposition In Funeral Service
Senate Bill 224 was signed into law by Governor DeWine on June 14, 2022. The statute made several changes to various laws impacting the funeral service industry. One significant part of this new law involves modification to the Ohio right of disposition statutes.
The right of disposition refers to the right to determine the disposition and funeral arrangements of an individual’s remains after death, including the location, manner, and conditions of disposition and arrangements for funeral goods and services. In Ohio, this right can be assigned in a written declaration with specific requirements. If an individual does not properly execute a written declaration, the right automatically falls to certain individuals as prescribed by law.
ORC §2108.81(B) outlines the hierarchy for the right of disposition when an individual dies without a written declaration. This hierarchy also applies if the individual assigned the right of disposition is disqualified to exercise the right. If an individual in the hierarchy is disqualified to exercise the right, then the right may go to the next person in the lineup.
The hierarchy goes as follows:
Sole surviving child, or if more than one surviving child, the surviving children collectively
Surviving parent or parents
Surviving sibling, or if more than one surviving sibling, the surviving siblings collectively
Surviving grandparent or grandparents
Surviving grandchild, or if more than one surviving grandchild, the surviving grandchildren collectively
Lineal descendants of the deceased grandparents
Guardian at the time of death, if a guardian had been appointed
Any other person willing to assume the right of disposition
Senate Bill 224 updated ORC §2108.75 that governs when a person is disqualified from serving as a representative for purposes of the right of disposition. Generally, disqualification occurs if the representative dies, the probate court declares the person incompetent, the person declines to exercise the right, etc. However, the funeral director involved faces a potentially litigious dilemma when the person with the right of disposition simply doesn’t respond or fails to commit to making arrangements. The funeral director faces a time clock with certain preparations for funeral services and they cannot proceed until arrangements are made by the individual with the right of disposition. The new law aims to give funeral directors additional guidance on when they can safely proceed to the next individual in the hierarchy to exercise the right of disposition. It states that if the person with the right of disposition fails to exercise the right within forty-eight (48) hours after notification of the deceased person’s death, then that person is disqualified from serving. Additionally, a person who refuses to assume liability for funeral expenses is now disqualified from serving under the new statute.