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Legal Requirements for Arranging a Cremation or Funeral Service in New Hampshire

Custody of Remains of Deceased Persons

RSA 290:16 Definitions. In this subdivision:

I. "At-need funeral arrangements" means funeral arrangements made after death.

II. "Custody and control" means the right to make all decisions, consistent with applicable laws, regarding the handling of a dead body, including but not limited to possession, at-need funeral arrangements, final disposition, and disinterment.

III. "Estranged" means living in separate residences and having a relationship characterized by hostility or indifference.

IV. "Next of kin" means a person having the following relationship to the subject, in the following order of priority:

(a) The spouse.
(b) An adult son or daughter.
(c) A parent.
(d) An adult brother or sister.
(e) An adult grandchild.
(f) An adult niece or nephew who is the child of a brother or sister.
(g) A maternal grandparent.
(h) A paternal grandparent.
(i) An adult aunt or uncle.
(j) An adult first cousin.
(k) Any other adult relative in descending order of blood relationship.

V. "Subject" means the person whose remains are placed in the custody and control of another person pursuant to this section.

Burials and Disinterments

RSA 209:17 Custody and Control Generally. The custody and control of the remains of deceased residents of this state are governed by the following provisions:

I. If the subject has designated a person to have custody and control in a written and signed document, custody and control belong to that person.

II. If the subject has not left a written signed document designating a person to have custody and control, or if the person designated by the subject refuses custody and control, custody and control belong to the next of kin.

III. If the next of kin is 2 or more persons with the same relationship to the subject, the majority of the next of kin have custody and control. If the next of kin cannot, by majority vote, make a decision regarding the subject's remains, the court shall make the decision upon petition under RSA 290:19, IV.

290:18 Estranged Spouse. Notwithstanding RSA 290:17, if the surviving spouse and the subject were estranged at the time of death, the spouse shall not have custody and control of the subject's remains. In this case, custody and control belong to the next of kin following the spouse.

290:19 Court Determination. Notwithstanding other provisions of this subdivision, the court of probate for the residence of the deceased may award custody and control to the person determined by the court most fit and appropriate to carry out the responsiblities of custody and control, and may make decisions regarding the subject's remains if those having custody and control cannot agree. The following provisions apply to court determinations under this section:

I. Before the subject's death, the subject or subject's legal representative may file a petition regarding custody and control of the subject's remains.

II. A relative of the subject may file such a petition.

III. A person who claims and establishes through evidence that person has or had a closer personal relationship to the subject than the next of kin may file a petition, if that person lived with the subject and was not in the employ of the subject or the subject's family.

IV. If the next of kin is 2 or more persons with the same relationship to the subject, and the next of kin cannot, by majority vote, make a decision regarding the subject's remains, 2 or more persons who have custody or control or a funeral director may file a petition asking the court to make a determination in the matter. The court shall consider the following in making its determination.

RSA 290:20 Wishes of Subject. If the subject has left written and signed instructions regarding funeral arrangements and disposal of the subject's remains, the person having custody and control shall abide by those wishes to the extent that the subject paid for those arrangements in advance or left resources for the purpose of carrying out those wishes.