Authority over how and where Michael Jackson’s remains are buried is left in the hands of his parents Joe and Katherine Jackson, according to California code.
If a person didn’t leave instructions and means to provide for their own burial, there is a clear pecking order of who has the right to control disposition of remains and make arrangements, according to California Health and Safety Code Section 7100.
Control goes first to the power of attorney for health care (Jackson doesn’t appear to have one), then to a surviving competent spouse, then to a competent adult child, and if none of those options exist, power rests with the deceased’s parents.
That means that Joe and Katherine Jackson may bury their son according to their own wishes, and they also are not legally bound to follow any desires Michael might have indicated verbally.
That Joe and Katherine are left to make the burial decision could go a long way in explaining the delay, as they have an estranged relationship. Although they are legally married, they’ve been living separately — he in Las Vegas and she in the family’s Encino, Calif., home. And even during the days leading up to Tuesday's public memorial service, the parents were at odds with each other.
“Joe would call to have the front gate opened for a buddy of his, and he’d be allowed inside,” said a law enforcement official stationed outside the Encino compound. “Then a few minutes later, the car would come back out the driveway, and we’d get a call from Katherine saying not to let Joe’s buddy back in. This happened over and over.”
A representative for the family is not making any comment on the status of burial arrangements, or the current location of Jackson’s remains.
Why can’t we keep track of the body?Michael Jackson’s death certificate listed Forest Lawn Memorial Park as the “temporary” destination for his remains. But beyond that indication, neither the family nor Forest Lawn is under obligation to update any public records in a way that clarifies the current or future location of Jackson’s remains.
“There is no requirement that the family notify the state when the body is moved from the temporary location to another location,” said Russ Heimerich, spokesperson for the California Cemetery and Funeral Bureau.
Not only that, but “remains can be stored indefinitely, provided they are in the proper facility,” Heimerich said. In other words, while most prefer to come to a conclusion about disposition as quickly as possible, there’s certainly no ticking clock.
And there’s yet another wrinkle: A “proper” facility does not necessarily indicate a licensed facility. In other words, there can exist a business capable of “proper” storage of remains that is not necessarily a licensed facility, like a cemetery or crematorium.
“It’s going to be difficult to find out where this body is until the family wants to share that information,” said Heimerich.
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