Disinterment is a big step to take after a family member or loved one has been buried. It is the physical removal of a coffin containing human remains from the grave, and it is generally only done as a result of a legal action, either by the state as part of a police investigation or by the family if they make the decision to relocate to another location. The laws regarding disinterment vary by state, but in all cases, the goal is to protect the dignity and wishes of the decedent and their loved ones.
A cemetery is not permitted to simply unearth a casket and relocate it for their own purposes; there are steps that must be taken in order for the error to be corrected properly. This can be very confusing and painful for family members, but even more upsetting are those situations where a cemetery does not fulfill their obligations and instead acts negligently or fraudulently. The cemetery negligence attorneys at Bochetto & Lentz are experienced in representing families in these difficult matters and are here to help.
There are a number of reasons why a family member may request a disinterment. These include relocating the body to another part of the same cemetery, or even to another location entirely. In some cases, there are family arguments regarding where a family member who has died should be buried, and there are even cases in which families have agreed to one burial spot, and then years later learning that a body has been disinterred and removed to another location. These family arguments can be extremely upsetting, and often require intervention by the courts.
Cemeteries may also need to disinter and reinter a casket under certain circumstances, including to correct an error; to move a body from a temporary holding location to a permanent one; and when the outer burial container encroaches on another grave’s space. In all cases, disinterment is not permitted in the state of Pennsylvania without first obtaining a permit from the local registrar. The law requires that when a cemetery company buries or permits the burial of a body in the wrong lot, it is the cemetery’s responsibility and duty to correct the error. In doing so they must provide the next of kin of the decedent with advance notice that their loved one will be disinterred and reinterred as long as the owner or owners have requested this notification. Family members are permitted to be there for this process if they have requested the ability to witness the handling of their loved ones’ remains. When this type of disinterment is required as a result of an error, it is the company’s responsibility to bear all of the associated costs.
When you lose a loved one, you do not anticipate having these kinds of issues arise, but they sometimes do. If you are facing the complexities of cemetery negligence or the need for disinterment, contact us online to find out how legal counsel from a knowledgeable attorney from the Philadelphia law firm of Bochetto & Lentz can help.