What to do if You and Your Spouse Disagree about a Final Disposition

The Timelines of Embalming and Cremation
October 27, 2020

What to do if You and Your Spouse Disagree about a Final Disposition

As the old saying goes, opposites attract.

You like to sleep in, he’s an early riser.

You bite into popsicles, like a crazy person. Your wife--a civilized lady--does not.

You speak with passion and abandon and volume. Your husband keeps most of his thoughts to himself.

You wish to be cremated. She absolutely does not.

Thankfully, you’ve managed to make the most of your differences before. There’s no reason you can’t work this one out too.

Like most things in life, you and your spouse aren’t the first to face this dilemma--and you won’t be the last.

As any Green Hills Advisor will tell, there are countless options when it comes to how you’d like for family and friends to honor you when you’re gone.

We thought we’d take a few minutes today to encourage you and your spouse to talk about this topic--if you haven’t already. Then we’ll discuss some of the reasons spouses disagree about their final disposition as well as a few simple solutions to this common problem.



Why Should Spouses Discuss Final Dispositions Now?

You can probably pinpoint the main differences between you and your spouse with super speed. But maybe when it comes to how you’d each like your bodies to be cared for when you’re gone, you’re not quite sure of the answers.

This is called a final disposition and usually consists of two options: embalming or cremation.

A tough topic, no doubt. But here’s why you shouldn’t put off having the conversation:

  • You must confirm or deny assumptions: Perhaps your quiet and reserved wife would prefer to be cremated and have her ashes scattered in a place that represents peace and solace. But maybe she desires a big celebration, complete with a viewing, heartfelt eulogies and a ceremonial burial. How will you know if you don’t ask?
  • This discussion serves as an act of love for the future: By determining now how you and your husband prefer to be cared for, you ease the burden when one of you passes away. Plans can be made with confidence and the weeks following can be spent honoring and cherishing the memory of your spouse.

Of course, there’s a chance that talking about a final disposition will lead to a bit of conflict. Rest assured, that’s okay and normal. :)



Why Might Spouses Disagree On Their Dispositions?

Okay, so you had the difficult conversation about final dispositions and it turns out you totally disagree! This might strike you as no big deal, incredibly alarming or somewhere along the spectrum.

For perspective, remember that you’re not alone and there are a few logical reasons why spouses sometimes struggle to align on this issue:

  • Comfort level: The topic of death alone can be unsettling for some. It’s understandable that between embalming and cremation one option might be more appealing than another.
  • Religious beliefs: Many religions hold strict rules for preparation and burial, which might dictate final disposition decisions.
  • Memorial preferences: One of you might prefer a more public and visible ceremony, while the other might desire something more private and intimate.

As you’re talking, keep in mind that knowledge and understanding go a long way. You might both work to educate yourself and keep the conversation open as you move along.

For instance: a better understanding of the embalming, traditional burial and cremation process might change your mind. Or you may discover that your religion has begun to relax disposition requirements as new interpretations emerge. And you may also learn that both embalming and cremation offer opportunities for all sorts of end-of-life celebrations.



What To Do If You Continue To Have Separate Wishes For Your Disposition

So let’s assume you have the tough conversation, do your research and revisit the topic, only to discover that you still disagree. That’s okay! The experienced Advisors at Green Hills are understanding and happy to accommodate a family’s varying wishes.

If one of you prefers to be embalmed and buried, while the other prefers to be cremated there are a few options for you to consider:

  • You might purchase two graveyard plots, one for the embalmed body and the other for the cremated body.
  • You could bring home your spouse’s cremains and later have them buried with you.
  • You could request that your spouse spread the majority of your ashes in a location of your choosing and place the remainder in a mausoleum on the same property where they’ll be buried.


This, of course, just scratches the surface. Speak with an advisor as well as your spouse to brainstorm other ideas as you work to find a compromise to suit you both.

After all, your differences are what make your relationship the dynamic thing that it is--both in life and in death--and is why people will remember you both for years to come.