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Autopsy, Burial and Cremation: What to Consider

People differ greatly in their attitudes towards an autopsy—if one is suggested or seems to be called for—as well as in their preferences as to burial or cremation. Our loved ones likewise have different, but deeply held beliefs. Some people seek closure and resist an autopsy under any circumstances; others will be anguished without “all the answers” they hope an autopsy will provide. There are those who would have a traditional religious service and burial even for one who did not embrace religion. Others in the family may feel it is more appropriate to the life just ended to cremate the remains and spread the ashes someplace special.

It would be a shame to diligently plan your affairs to avoid ill-will among your survivors, only to leave a couple of emotionally charged matters unaddressed, possibly setting the stage for bitter disagreement. So provide as much guidance as possible to your agent. Indicate clearly your wishes as to your remains. Discuss the circumstances under which you believe an autopsy would or would not be appropriate. Despite their personal preferences, those you leave behind will almost surely agree and be content with any decisions they know reflect what you wanted.

From “AARP Crash Course in Estate Planning: The Essential Guide to Wills, Trusts and Your Personal Legacy,” by Michael T. Palermo, JD, CFP, 2005, p. 83.

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