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Total Life Choices (TLC) provides free legal services to promote and protect the dignity of each individual.  TLC attorneys and volunteers empower individuals in articulating and documenting crucial lifetime, incapacity, and end-of-life choices through education and legal planning.  TLC counsels families on complex court procedures for probate, administration and guardianship.



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Total Life Choices (TLC)
New York Legal Assistance Group
7 Hanover Square, 18th Floor
New York, NY 10004

Phone: (212) 613-5000
Fax: (212) 714-7402

Appointment of Agent to Control Disposition of Remains (Public Health Law § 4201)

PBH  § 4201. Disposition of remains; responsibility therefor.

1.    As used in this  section,  the  following  terms shall have the following meanings, unless the context otherwise requires:
(a)    “Cremation” means the incineration of human remains.
(b)    “Disposition” means the care, disposal, transportation, burial, cremation or embalming of the body of a deceased person, and associated measures.
(c)    “Domestic partner” means a person who,  with  respect  to  another person:
(i)       is  formally  a  party  in  a  domestic  partnership  or  similar relationship with the other person, entered into pursuant to the laws of the United States or  any  state,  local  or  foreign  jurisdiction,  or registered  as  the  domestic  partner  of  the person with any registry maintained by the employer of either party or any  state,  municipality, or foreign jurisdiction; or
(ii)    is  formally recognized as a beneficiary or covered person under the other person’s employment benefits or health insurance; or
(d)    (iii) is dependent or mutually interdependent on the other person  for support, as evidenced by the totality of the circumstances indicating a mutual intent to be domestic partners  including  but  not  limited  to: common  ownership  or joint leasing of real or personal property; common householding, shared income or  shared  expenses;  children  in  common; signs  of intent to marry or become domestic partners under subparagraph(i)  or  (ii)  of  this  paragraph;  or  the  length  of  the   personal relationship of the persons.
(e)    Each party to a domestic partnership shall be considered to be the domestic partner of the other party.  “Domestic partner” shall not include a person who is related to the other person by blood in a manner that would bar marriage to the other person in New York state. “Domestic partner”  shall  also  not  include any person who is less than eighteen years of age or who is the adopted child of the other person or  who  is related  by  blood in a manner that would bar marriage in New York state to a person who is the lawful spouse of the other person.
(f)    “Person” means a natural person eighteen years of age or older.

2.    (a) The following persons in descending  priority  shall  have  the right to control the disposition of the remains of such decedent:
(i)    the person designated in a written instrument executed pursuant to the provisions of this section;
(ii)    the decedent’s surviving spouse;
(b)    (ii-a) the decedent’s surviving domestic partner;
(i)    any  of the decedent’s surviving children eighteen years of age or older;
(ii)    either of the decedent’s surviving parents;
(iii)    any of the decedent’s surviving siblings eighteen years of age  or older;
(iv)    a guardian appointed pursuant to article seventeen or seventeen-A of  the  surrogate’s  court  procedure  act or article eighty-one of the mental hygiene law;
(v)    any person eighteen years of age or older who would be  entitled to  share in the estate of the decedent as specified in section 4-1.1 of the  estates,  powers  and  trusts  law,  with  the  person  closest  in relationship having the highest priority;
(vi)    a duly appointed fiduciary of the estate of the decedent;
(vii)    a  close  friend or relative who is reasonably familiar with the decedent’s wishes, including the decedent’s religious or moral  beliefs, when  no  one  higher  on this list is reasonably available, willing, or competent to act, provided that  such  person  has  executed  a  written statement pursuant to subdivision seven of this section; or
(viii)    a  chief  fiscal  officer  of  a county or a public administrator appointed pursuant to article twelve  or  thirteen  of  the  surrogate’s court  procedure  act,  or  any  other  person  acting  on behalf of the decedent, provided that such person has  executed  a  written  statement pursuant to subdivision seven of this section.
(c)    If a person designated to control the disposition of a decedent’s remains, pursuant to this  subdivision,  is  not  reasonably  available, unwilling  or not competent to serve, and such person is not expected to become reasonably available, willing or competent, then those persons of equal priority and,  if  there  be  none,  those  persons  of  the  next succeeding  priority  shall have the right to control the disposition of the decedent’s remains.
(d)    The person in control of disposition, pursuant  to  this  section, shall  faithfully carry out the directions of the decedent to the extent lawful  and  practicable,  including  consideration  of  the   financial capacity of the decedent’s estate and other resources made available for disposition  of  the remains. The person in control of disposition shall also dispose of the decedent in a manner appropriate to the moral and individual beliefs and wishes of the decedent provided that such beliefs and wishes do not conflict with the directions of the decedent. The person in control of disposition may seek to recover any costs related to the disposition from the fiduciary of the decedent’s estate in accordance with section eighteen hundred eleven of the surrogate’s court procedure act.
(e)    No funeral director, undertaker, embalmer or  no  person  with  an interest  in,  or  who  is  an  employee  of  any funeral firm, cemetery organization or business operating a crematory, columbarium or any other business, who also controls the disposition  of  remains  in  accordance with  this  section,  shall  receive  compensation  or otherwise receive financial benefit for disposing of the remains of a decedent.




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Total Life Choices provides free legal education seminars and trainings on legal planning to community groups and medical and social service professionals. To schedule a TLC presentation, contact Tina Janssen-Spinosa, Esq. at (212) 613-5062 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


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