Montana Code Annotated 2021



Part 9. Right of Disposition of Remains


37-19-907. Disputes. (1) The district court for the county where the decedent resided may award the right of disposition to the person determined by the court to be the most fit and appropriate to carry out the right of disposition and make decisions regarding the decedent's remains if those sharing the right of disposition under 37-19-904 cannot agree.

(2) The following provisions apply to the court's determination under subsection (1):

(a) If the persons holding the right of disposition are two or more persons with the same relationship to the decedent and they cannot, by majority vote, make a decision regarding the disposition of the decedent's remains, any of the persons or a mortician with custody of the remains may file a petition asking the district court to make a determination in the matter.

(b) In making a determination, the district court shall consider the following:

(i) the reasonableness and practicality of any proposed funeral arrangements and disposition;

(ii) the degree of the personal relationship between the decedent and each of the persons claiming the right of disposition;

(iii) the desires of the person or persons who are able and willing to pay the cost of the funeral arrangements and disposition;

(iv) the convenience and needs of other family and friends wishing to pay respects;

(v) the desires of the decedent;

(vi) the degree to which the funeral arrangements would allow maximum participation by all those wishing to pay their respects.

(3) (a) In the event of a dispute regarding the right of disposition, a mortician may not be held liable for refusing to accept the remains or to inter or otherwise dispose of the remains of the decedent or complete the arrangements for final disposition of the remains until the mortician receives a court order or a written agreement signed by the parties to the disagreement that decides the final disposition of the remains.

(b) If the mortician retains the remains for final disposition while the parties are in disagreement, the mortician may embalm or refrigerate and shelter the body, or both, in order to preserve the body while awaiting the final decision of the district court and may add the cost of embalming or refrigeration and sheltering, or both, to the final disposition costs.

(c) If a mortician files a petition under this section for an order of disposition from the district court, the mortician may add the legal fees and court costs associated with the petition to the final disposition costs.

(d) This section may not be construed to require or to impose a duty upon a mortician to bring an action under this section. A mortician may not be held criminally or civilly liable for choosing not to bring an action under this section.

(4) Except to the extent that it may be considered by the district court under subsection (2)(b)(iii), the fact that a person has paid or agreed to pay for all or part of the funeral arrangements and disposition does not give that person a greater right of disposition than the person would otherwise have.

(5) The personal representative of the estate of the decedent does not have, by virtue of being the personal representative, a greater claim to the right of disposition than the person would otherwise have under the provisions of this part.

History: En. Sec. 7, Ch. 208, L. 2009.