This article was first published in Volume 25, Issue 3, 2019 of the California Trusts and Estates Quarterly, reprinted by permission.
Those of us who watched AMC’s hit drama “Breaking Bad” may recall the scene in the pilot episode where Walt and Jesse set out to dissolve a dead body in hydrofluoric acid. Jesse neglects to take Walt’s (the chemistry teacher’s) advice to dissolve the body in a plastic container and instead uses a bathtub, only to have the acid melt through the dead body and the tub, and come crashing through the floor supporting the tub, and the floor below that. Here, there is some truth in fiction. Pursuant to Assembly Bill 967, signed by Governor Brown in 2017, the liquification of human remains will be permitted soon, at least for professionals and entities operating a licensed hydrolysis facility where such processes may be carried out. The new law becomes operative on July 1, 2020.
Popular culture and criminal activity aside, this article sets out to summarize the basics of disposing of human remains, covering issues such as who has control over the remains, which laws and documents govern such control, the transportation and disposition of remains, and the removal of remains after burial.
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