The Iowa Supreme Court [official website] on Friday ruled [opinion, PDF] that a woman whose will designated that she be buried in Montana must be buried in Iowa at the behest of her husband. It ruled that the state's Final Disposition Act [text] gives the spouse of a decedent "the right to control the final disposition...with no accompanying requirement that he follow her instructions." The court said the only exception to the spouse's right to control a decedent's disposition is if there is a "declaration designating somebody else." In this case, the decedent specified in her will that she wished to be buried in Montana, but her husband wanted her to be buried in Iowa. The decedent's sister, the executor of the estate, originally obtained an order from the probate court to bury her in Montana pursuant to her will, but the supreme court's decision will reverse that order.
In the past, much of the legal controversy surrounding wills and estates has dealt with inheritance laws, most recently in the context of same-sex couples' inheritance rights. Last week, three briefs were filed [JURIST report] in a case pending review by the US Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act [text]. The case stems from Edith Windsor, who was legally married to her wife under Canada and New York law, being denied a spousal deduction for federal estate taxes when her wife died. In August, a Minnesota court ruled [JURIST report] that the state's Defense of Marriage Act [text] did not prevent same-sex couples from inheriting from each other.