Florida Disinterment – Digging up the Dead?

Disinterment is the digging up (exhuming) or removal of a casket or body from the grave.  Sound like a bad movie?  In fact it is a request that I have received on two occasions in my role as estate planning and elder law attorney.

One family wanted to remove their beloved father from a non-descript cemetery to a Veterans cemetery.  One family wants to bring their grandfather home to the family plot, where their beloved grandmother lied in wait for him.  The reasons are varied, but have significance to the families making the requests.

Once I heard the reasons provided by the families to “dig up their departed”, I began my research journey to see what I could “uncover”.  I reviewed the Florida Statutes and Florida Administrative Code. I even consulted with the Director of the Florida Division of Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services.

Disinterment in Florida is governed by Florida Statutes Chapter 497. The statute prescribes the authorization, notification and other procedures that must be followed to enable one to move forward with a disinterment.  The process of Florida Disinterment is further governed by the Florida Administrative Code, Chapter 69K.

There are several criteria that must be addressed before a cemetery will perform a disinterment (exhume, digging up or removing from a grave or tomb).  The presence of a licensed funeral director is required (unless the reinterment is to be made in the same cemetery).

There are several permits and written authorization releases that are also mandated.  An authorization must be signed by the individuals who, at the time of disinterment, would be permitted to authorize the burial of the decedent.  Also required, is a written release from the individual(s) who currently own the burial (interment) rights for the burial space from which the disinterment of the decedent it to take place.

Unless a cemetery is provided with all the proper documentation, they shall not perform the disinterment unless and until such time as they received a court order instructing them to do so.

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