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  • August 4, 2009

    Veterans’ Organizations have the Right to Receive Unclaimed Veterans’ Cremains

    Pursuant to P.L. 2009, c.14, veterans’ organizations now have the right to receive unclaimed veterans’ cremains after one year. Originally introduced on May 1, 2008 and approved on February 4, 2009, this New Jersey law supplements Chapter 3 of Title 38A of the New Jersey Statute and recently went into effect on June 1, 2009. The current version of the law states that “a person may dispose of the cremains of a dead human body which have not been claimed by a relative or friend of the deceased within one year from the date of cremation upon certification, to the commissioner's satisfaction, that a diligent effort has been made to identify, locate and notify a relative or friend of the deceased within that one year period. A diligent effort shall include a certified letter, return receipt requested, mailed to the person who authorized the cremation.”

    The new law permits a funeral director to grant a qualified veterans’ organization, as defined in subsection b. of section 2 of P.L.1983, c.385 (C.26:7-18.2), the right to receive the cremains of a veteran which have not been claimed by a relative or friend of the deceased within one year after cremation upon certification, to the satisfaction of the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services, that a diligent effort has been made to identify, locate and notify a relative or friend of the deceased within that one year period. A qualified veterans’ organization which takes possession of cremains, however, is required to dispose of the cremains by scattering them at sea or by interring them on land in a dignified manner at the State-operated, Brigadier General William C. Doyle Memorial Cemetery, if the individual is eligible for interment at that facility. Notably, a qualified veterans’ organization cannot be held liable for damages in any civil action arising out of the disposal of cremains unless the damages are the result of gross negligence or willful misconduct.

    Cherylee O. Judson is an associate of Hill Wallack LLP in the Princeton office where she is a member of the Litigation Division and the Trial & Insurance Defense and Insurance Coverage Practice Group. Ms. Judson focuses her practice in the defense and representation of insurance companies and their insureds in complex claims and litigation.