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The tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, led to revisions in the Public Health Law seeking to protect those identifying, handling and disposing of human remains. One component of the revisions allows for planning for the assignment of an agent for the disposition of remains. While formerly these issues could be addressed in a will, often wills are not probated or even looked at before people are buried. Had such an assignment been made by the decedent in the case of Mack v. Brown, 919 N.Y.S.2d 166, decided March 8, 2011, a great deal of emotional angst and resulting litigation could have been avoided. Instead, the issue in Mack became whether or not the hospital, crematory or funeral home could be held responsible upon cremation of a bigamous man who appears to have been married to two women at the time of his death, when one of the wives and her children claimed they were denied the right of sepulcher, or the right to the immediate possession of the decedent’s body for preservation and disposition of the remains. Id.

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