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The Case of the Bad Burial

Should religious law trump the wishes of the deceased?

Politics society rights

— Michael Hirshon

The Superior Court of New Jersey noted that "exhumation is … a serious act" that courts will not grant without exceptional circumstances. But the court also acknowledged its duty to follow the stated wishes of a dying person.

In Irving's case, the court rejected Bert's argument that his brother was incompetent to sign the will, or that the documents he signed were defective enough to overcome Irving's intent. They also did not find Bert credible in arguing that he was unaware of Irving's desire to be cremated.

Though the court noted it was "loathe to even consider disturbing … hallowed ground," it ordered Irving's body disinterred. After Bert also lost his appeal, Bonnie was finally able to scatter Irving's ashes at Sunset Lake.

Robin Gerber is a lawyer and the author of Barbie and Ruth: The Story of the World's Most Famous Doll and the Woman Who Created Her.

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