Families of Soldiers Denied Death Benefits During Shutdown

From The New York Times: The families of four soldiers killed in Afghanistan last weekend will not receive death benefits or the money to pay for their funerals because of the government shutdown. The bodies of Sgt. Patrick C. Hawkins, 25; Pfc. Cody J. Patterson, 24; Sgt. Joseph M. Peters, 24; and First Lt. Jennifer M. Moreno, 25, will arrive at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Wednesday. The four soldiers were killed Sunday in the Zhari district of Kandahar Province when enemy forces attacked their unit with explosives. But if their families want to meet the plane, they […]

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Grave Desecration in Michigan

In early September, a vandal or vandals knocked down and/or broke more than forty headstones in Goodrich Cemetery, a historic cemetery in Bruce Township, Michigan.  Many of the headstones belonged to veterans of the Civil War.  Grave desecration demonstrates some of the best and worst of humanity.  Why would anyone cause such senseless damage to memorials to the dead?  Yet community volunteers have begun to repair the damage and the National Guard is expected to assist restoration efforts in the next few weeks. If the vandals are caught, they could be facing some stiff fines and jail time of up […]

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Maryland’s New Slayer Law is Incomplete

A new law, named to honor murder victim Ann Sue Metz, set to go into effect in Maryland on October 1st will disqualify anyone who "feloniously and intentionally kills, conspires to kill, or procures the killing of the decedent" from inheriting or otherwise benefitting from the death of that decedent.  This type of law, referred to as a "Slayer Statute," partially addresses a tragic problem, caused when one family member murders another and then stands to financially benefit from their crime.  However, it neglects to address a related problem — the person responsible for the death may have priority under […]

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New York to Allow Human Cremains in Pet Cemeteries

Billed as "America's first pet cemetery," Hartsdale Canine Cemetery in Westchester, New York was established in 1896 as the final resting place of beloved pets.  In the past 117 years, over 80,000 pets have been buried at Hartsdale, as well as the cremains of approximately 700 humans.  In 2011, retired NYPD officer Thomas Ryan died and his niece attempted to have his cremains buried in Hartsdale, alongside the remains of his wife, Bunny, and the couple's three Maletese dogs.  But the New York Department of State, which had turned a blind eye to the burials of human cremains in Hartsdale […]

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Welcome to The Funeral Law Blog!

My name is Tanya Marsh and I am an Associate Professor of Law at Wake Forest University School of Law.  I research, write, and teach the laws of the status, treatment, and disposition of human remains in the United States.  In other words — funeral and cemetery law.  I'm interested in how our system of laws developed, what our cultural practices are, and how the two interrelate.  Funeral and disposition practices in the United States are changing rapidly, and in this blog I hope to discuss those changes and how the law responds or doesn't respond. This may sound like […]

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