Two Florida parents seeking to obtain the rights to their child’s ashes after their divorce may not treat the cremains as “property,” according to a state appeals court. The ruling, handed down on May 21, was likely the first of its kind in Florida, according to news reports. It appears that the parents were trying to decide what to do with the ashes of the 23-year-old man who had not left a will.

The decedent’s mother wanted to take the ashes to West Palm Beach for burial, and his father wanted to bury the ashes in a plot in Georgia. The father wanted to have the ashes declared as property, so that both parents could divide the ashes and bury them as they saw fit. The mother had a religious objection to splitting the decedent’s ashes.

News reports show that the justices in the case referred to a previous ruling from the Florida Supreme Court. That decision stated that the next of kin are not entitled to property rights when it comes to the remains of a decedent. The decedent’s ashes, therefore, are considered the same in this legal context as his actual body, and the cremains cannot be divided under Florida property law. Judges in the case said that the state legislature might be well-served to address this policy concern in an upcoming session, but the man’s remains in this case will not be split up.

This case illustrates the importance of leaving even an elementary will behind. Any type of will can help your family members make sure they abide by your last wishes. Instead, these parents were forced to go to court because they each wanted to do the right thing for their son. If he had discussed his wishes with them — and written them down for posterity — this type of conflict would not have been necessary.

Luis E. Barreto