Authorizing a Cremation in Illinois

In Illinois, all dispositions of remains, whether it’s for a funeral or a cremation, fall under the Disposition of Remains Act - Chapter 755 ILCS 65. Illinois state law makes no differentiation between arranging a cremation or arranging a funeral when it comes to establishing who has the legal right to authorize these services and arrange for the disposition of remains.

Who can Authorize an Illinois Funeral or Cremation?

In order of priority, the persons who can authorize a funeral or cremation in Cook County, and throughout Illinois are:

  • A person designated in a written instrument that complies with Sections 10 and 15 of the Act;
  • A person serving as executor or the legal representative of the estate, and who is acting according to written instructions contained in the decedent’s will;
  • The decedent’s spouse at the time of death;
  • Surviving adult child or children;
  • Parents of the decedent, if they’re still legally competent;
  • Surviving competent adult respectively in the next of kin.

 What if there’s a Funeral or Cremation Dispute?

If there’s more than one person who has the same degree of priority - for example, if there’s more than one surviving adult child; Illinois state law says that the majority of persons in the class have the authority to make funeral or cremation arrangements. 

This means that if a parent dies with no spouse and three adult children, two of the adult children together can arrange an Illinois cremation even if the third child objects. The same thing goes for any class of competent adults that are the same degree of next of kin. For example, if there are three siblings but no one of higher priority, two of the three siblings can create a majority for the purpose of making Illinois funeral or cremation arrangements.

In the event that it’s difficult or impossible to reach some of the members of a class with equal priority, the minority can make the funeral or cremation arrangements - as long as they’ve made an effort to contact the absent members of the class. For example, if a decedent has three children, but two of the children are estranged or haven’t responded after reasonable attempts to notify them, the minority - the one child - can legally make the arrangements.

Directions by the Decedent

Illinois funeral and cremation law also makes provisions for the decedent to provide written directions of the disposition of his or her own remains. The decedent can provide directions in a will, a prepaid funeral or burial contract, a properly executed power of attorney of the appropriate variety, a cremation authorization form, or another written document that satisfies Sections 10 and 15 of this law.

Directions made in the appropriate form, in writing, can only be modified or revoked by a subsequent writing signed by the decedent. The person who has legal control over the decedent’s remains is charged with following the decedent’s written instructions to the extent that they’re financially able to do so.

November 8, 2013

By Dachary Carey