Friday, November 9, 2007
A.G. Defines Steps to Force Coroner to Take Remains
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A funeral director cannot force a county coroner to take possession of a decedentís remains unless the director first determines that no other party within the state is subject to a duty of interment, Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. has opined.
In an opinion filed Wednesday, the attorney general concluded that a funeral director could only require a county coroner to accept a decedentís remains under Health and Safety Code Sec. 7104 if the director determines that the decedent made no provisions for interment and the estate is insufficient for such purpose, and that the duty of interment does not legally fall to another person residing in the state who can be located with reasonable diligence.
The attorney general wrote that the statute, which authorizes a funeral director to investigate circumstances leading up to a decedentís burial, requires that the director first determine whether a decedent has a prepaid burial plan or burial insurance, and, if not, whether the estate is sufficient to cover interment expenses, he said.
If neither is present, he said, the director must then determine whether anyone else has a duty to inter the decedent before requiring the coroner to take possession of the remains.† Individuals subject to a duty to inter under the statute include certain agents under a power of attorney for health care; a competent surviving spouse; a sole surviving competent adult child or parent of the decedent; the surviving competent adult in the next degrees of kinship; and the public administrator when the deceased has assets.
If the director can identify an individual subject to the duty, he concluded, the director may then require the coroner to take custody of the remains only if the individual cannot be found after the exercise of reasonable diligence, or does not reside within the state.
The opinion was requested by Butte County Counsel Bruce S. Alpert, and drafted by Deputy Attorney General Taylor S. Carey.
The opinion is No. 07-201.
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