- By Ken Herman American-Statesman Staff
Part of the fun of being Texas attorney general (I mean when there’s not a Democratic president to sue every hour on the hour) comes when folks ask for your opinion.
In general, this is not about stuff like who has the best barbecue or pizza. This is legal stuff, official opinions, all of them of deep importance to somebody.
For example, let’s take a look at the recently submitted opinion request bearing the number RQ-0234-KP. This one has to do with whether certain people will be buried, cremated or otherwise disposed of upon their bodily departure from this good green, if warming, Earth. That seems important.
The opinion request came from the Texas Department of Banking which gets involved in the funeral business through its regulatory authority over prepaid funeral services and merchandise — and, no, in this case merch does not mean T-shirts, hoodies, etc.
Under state law, folks can leave written directions for their remains. As you are aware, there are options. Sparing you the legal details, suffice it to say, the Banking Department is asking Attorney General Ken Paxton to sort out what happens on older prepaid funeral paperwork (pre-2002) that did not have a section for designation of final disposition and in cases in which no written instructions were left behind.
“While the contracting party could write on the face of the contract to specify a type of disposition, this was not often done,” State Banking Commissioner Charles G. Cooper told Paxton in seeking the opinion.
That would be what’s known as an unfortunate oversight.
In such cases, Cooper wrote, “the funeral provider commonly infers the type of disposition from the services of merchandise purchases. For example, if an outer burial container was purchased, one could infer that burial was desired.”
That would seem to be a reasonable inference.
More from Cooper to Paxton: “It would appear in the interest of the state, our citizens and the funeral industry itself to provide clear direction as to whether a funeral provider may or must infer the type of disposition when a purchaser has not expressly stated it in a prepaid funeral contract.”
Cooper copied the letter to several groups he said Paxton could expect to hear from as he’s sorting this out, including the Texas Funeral Service Commission, Texas Funeral Directors Association and Texas Cemeteries Association.
“The (banking) department recognizes that families or others responsible for the disposition of a decedent’s remains may desire some degree of flexibility with respect to funeral arrangements,” Cooper wrote. “At the same time, however, we recognize the importance of honoring the disposition directions contained in a prepaid funeral contract.”
We await the attorney general’s opinion.
Elsewhere in cemetery news, the Austin Parks and Recreation Department, in a protracted process that began shortly after the Earth cooled (or 2013), has proffered what it’s calling “another draft” of the rules for the city-owned cemeteries.
This, one would hope, also could be called the “final draft.” It’s intended to be the culmination of the squabble over restrictions on what kind of ornamentation can be placed on graves. Read the proposed rules and send your comments to D’Anne Williams, Parks and Recreation Department, 919 W. 28½ St., Austin, TX 78705 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The deadline (pardon the expression) is June 24.
And, despite an online survey by some folks gauging support for allowing dogs (living ones) in the city-owned Austin Memorial Park on Hancock Drive, cemetery officials are not considering making any changes in the no-pets rule. The survey seeks input from people who previously took their dogs to the nearby Bull Creek Road tract now being developed as the Grove.
Though not a dog owner, I can see both sides of this discussion. The cemetery might be a placid place to bring a well-behaved, respectful dog. And it might be heart-warming to bring a deceased’s beloved pup for a visit. But it also could be heartworming.
Sorry. Some things are too powerful to resist, even when they should be.