PA 14-204—sSB 260

Judiciary Committee


SUMMARY: This act makes various changes concerning the disposition of a person's body after death. It allows an agent with power of attorney to execute a written document before the principal's death directing, or designating someone to take custody and control of, the disposition upon the principal's death. It gives the same authority to a conservator in regard to the conserved person's body after death, but only if the probate court expressly authorizes it.

The act generally prohibits someone with custody and control of the disposition of a deceased person's body from knowingly providing for disposition in a manner inconsistent with the above documents or a person's own advance directive or other document setting forth health care instructions (including those relating to anatomical gifts). But, a contrary disposition is allowed if approved by the probate court.

The act specifies that when multiple people have disposition rights over a deceased relative's body, a majority who can be located and wants to participate makes the arrangements.

By law, a conservator cannot revoke the conserved person's advance health care directive unless the appointing court expressly authorizes it. The act also prohibits conservators, without such authorization, from revoking a document executed by the conserved person or his or her agent with power of attorney concerning the body's disposition and designation of custody and control upon death.

With some exceptions, existing law gives a health care decision of a health care representative precedence over that of a conservator (see BACKGROUND). The act extends this precedence and the exceptions to decisions about the disposition of the person's body.

The act also makes technical and conforming changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2014


Agents and Conservators

The act applies to the documents that agents and conservators can execute to direct a body's disposition after death the same conditions as currently apply to advance directives that people execute for themselves. For example, the document must be signed by the agent or conservator and attested by two witnesses. The document can direct the body's disposition after death (e. g. , cremation, burial). It also can designate someone to have custody and control of the body and, if applicable, carry out the directions for disposition. If the document designates an individual, it can also designate an alternate.

The act also requires such a document executed by a conservator to include provisions indicating that the document (1) is valid if the person is under conservatorship at the time of death and (2) terminates upon the end of the conservatorship if that occurs before the conserved person's death.

Disposition by Next of Kin in Absence of Designation

By law, the right to custody and control of a deceased person's body belongs to the person's next of kin if (1) the person did not designate an individual in an advance directive or (2) any designated individual or alternate declines to act or cannot be located within 48 hours after the death or discovery of the body. Custody and control are subject to any disposition directions in the deceased person's advance directive. Under the act, the same rule applies to agents' or conservators' written documents.

By law, the spouse, if any, generally has first priority for having custody and control, and subsequent priority rests with other relatives (e. g. , adult children have the next order of priority). If (1) there is no surviving spouse or the spouse does not have priority and (2) multiple other relatives have equal priority, the act provides that custody and control of the body rest in a majority of the relatives who can be located and who indicate their willingness to help make disposition arrangements. They must indicate this willingness in writing and within a reasonable time, up to 10 days after the deceased is identified.


Health Care Decisions of Health Care Representative and Conservator

By law, a health care decision of a person's health care representative generally takes precedence over a decision by the person's conservator. But this does not apply if:

1. there is a court order to the contrary;

2. the decision concerns someone subject to the laws on examination of certain convicted persons, temporary leaves or conditional release of acquittees in hospitals for psychiatric disabilities, or competency to stand trial;

3. the conservator has been appointed for someone who is subject to an order concerning administration of medication for treatment of psychiatric disabilities, for the duration of the person's hospitalization; or

4. the conservator has been appointed for a person subject to an order concerning medication administration to a criminal defendant placed in the custody of the mental health and addiction services commissioner (CGS 19a-580e).

OLR Tracking: JO: KM: PF: ro