When a death occurs in Iowa and cremation is selected, it is required by law (Iowa Code 144C) that all providers get a written authorization from the legal living next of kin of the deceased. This form is called the Next of Kin Authorization. It is important to know that this document cannot be completed prior to one’s death — even if arrangements have been preplanned and prepaid.
There are sometimes misconceptions about who is in charge of one’s final disposition after a death has occurred. Iowa Law determines that the next of kin or authorized representative has exclusive authority to decide what will happen in regard to the deceased’s body. It is also very important to know that if one has a power of attorney in place, it is automatically terminated by law when death occurs.
Each of our personal and family situations is different and not all may have an immediate next of kin who can serve as an authorizing person. It is also understood that in certain circumstances, an individual may wish to have another person serve as authorizing person. Iowa Cremation believes that individuals should have the right to determine what happens to their body following their death, which is why we have been longtime advocates for legislation that benefits all Iowans selecting cremation. In July of 2008, lobbying efforts successfully resulted in the Final Disposition Directive Act. This law allows a person to name a “designee” (representative), who oversees all disposition and ceremony decisions on behalf of the deceased. This designee’s authority supersedes all next of kin or executors and does not have to be a family member. The Final Disposition Directive is a separate document from the Next of Kin Authorization, can only be filled out by the declarant (member), and must be put in place while the member is of sound mind.
Prior to July 2017, it was required that the Disposition Directive is attached to a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare. Last spring, Iowa’s legislative branch passed a new law (effective July 1, 2017) that any new Disposition Directive will not have to be attached to a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare. In other words, the Disposition Directive can now stand on its own. More information on the Disposition Directive can be obtained from a qualified attorney or by visiting the Iowa Bar Association’s website — www.iowabar.org.
According to Iowa Code, the following is a summary of who has the right to control disposition, in order of authority:
- Designee or Alternate Designee- (if a valid Disposition Directive has been put into place).
- The surviving spouse of the deceased- if not legally separated (common-law marriage is not recognized as valid for final disposition).
- The surviving child or children of the deceased- each surviving adult child must sign the cremation authorization. Iowa Code allows for a majority, but Iowa Cremation has a policy that all children must be in agreement before cremation takes place. (Please note: the children do not have to sign in person; we can fax or email the form to them.)
- The surviving parents of the deceased- If both parents are living, each must sign the authorization.
- The surviving grandchild or grandchildren- Again, while Iowa Code allows for a simple majority, Iowa Cremation has a policy that all must be in agreement before cremation takes place.
- The surviving sibling or siblings (same conditions as noted above).
- The surviving grandparent or grandparents (same conditions as noted above).
Iowa law does have other provisions in place if none of the above-mentioned familial relations have survived. However, it is strongly suggested that a disposition directive is completed prior to death to ensure your arrangements are completed as you wish.
In summary, there are two different forms. The Next of Kin Authorization will be created by our Directors and must be signed by the legal next of kin AFTER death occurs. The Final Disposition Directive is an optional form a member might choose to be able to authorize a particular person who will have exclusive authority to decide what will happen in regard to the deceased’s body. The Final Disposition Directive must be filled out by the member and be in place BEFORE death occurs. A Final Disposition Directive is not required for cremation and if you do not have one filled out, Iowa Cremation will follow the guidelines already in place under the law.
This information is provided as a basic overview of the laws in place surrounding right to control disposition in Iowa. It should not be construed as legal advice. Iowa Cremation always recommends discussing all legal requirements with a qualified attorney.