Sunday, January 26, 2020

Son's Wish To Be Cremated Prevails Over Mother's Religious Objections

In In re Remains of Ghostley, (AZ App., Jan. 22, 2020), a mother appealed the order of a probate court directing that the remains of her adult son be cremated.  The son's father and the son's girl friend both affirmed that the son's wishes were to be cremated and to have his ashes spread over the places he loved.  The mother contended that her Jewish religious beliefs opposed cremation and that the thought of her son's being cremated caused her to suffer emotional hardship. Arizona statutes provide that the decedent's wishes must be followed "if they are reasonable and do not impose an economic or emotional hardship." The Arizona appellate court concluded:
[T]he probate court did not err in making the factual determination that Mother’s distress arising from her son’s wishes to be cremated did not rise to the level of “emotional hardship” as contemplated by § 36-831.01. We defer to a trial court’s factual findings unless they are clearly erroneous....
Mother testified that her distress stemmed primarily from her professed religious beliefs, the sincerity of which we do not purport to question here. However ... nothing compelled the court to elevate Mother’s religious beliefs above the wishes of her son. Notably, the record reflects that decedent was also religious, and his own spiritual beliefs could have played a role in his decision to be cremated.
AP reports on the decision.