Iowa Enacts Final Disposition Directives Act

Following a controversial decision by the Iowa Supreme Court and after some wrangling in the Iowa legislature, Governor Chet Culver signed SF 473 into law on April 11, 2008. Effective July 1, 2008, this new chapter to the Iowa Code (chapter 144C) authorizes an individual to designate an individual to make decisions over the disposition of their bodily remains following their death. The designation does not indicate how a person wants their body remains to be handled, only who has the authority to make those decisions that are "reasonable under the circumstances".

Now, what is "reasonable under the circumstances"? Under the definitions section, consideration should be given to the deceased's financial situation, religious beliefs and cutural or family customs.

Also, if the designee doesn't promptly step forward and assume their responsibility, they forfeit their rights. In fact, the designee has either 24 hours after notification or 40 hours after death to exercise their authority. Iowa Code section 144C.8 After, that, the power is gone and moves to the next person on the priority list.

This new law also covers situations beyond immediate funeral arrangements. For example, disinterment or decisions about an autopsy.

I imagine most attorneys will begin placing appropriate designations on their medical power of attorney forms. Here is the suggested language to use for the declaration:

I hereby designate ................ as my designee.  My designee shall have the sole
responsibility for making
decisions concerning the final disposition of my remains
the ceremonies to be performed after my death.

declaration hereby revokes all prior declarations. This designation becomes
effective upon my death.
My designee shall act in a manner that is reasonable under
the circumstances.

I may revoke or amend this declaration at any time. I
agree that a third party
(such as a funeral or cremation
establishment, funeral director, or cemetery) who
receives a
copy of this declaration may act in reliance on it. Revocation of this
declaration is not effective as to a third
party until the third party receives
notice of the revocation.
My estate shall indemnify my designee and any third party
costs incurred by them or claims arising against them as a result of their good
faith reliance on this declaration.

I execute this declaration as my free and voluntary act.
This new chapter is a needed step by the Iowa legislature. Unfortunately, for the Stark family, it is too late. However, like many aspects of an estate plan, the usefulness of this chapter is only beneficial if the plans are communicated to those key individuals. Knowing where the document is, who the designee is and what one's wishes are can be critical to putting your final affairs in order.


Anonymous said…
Keep up the good work.

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