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Court Looks to Will to Determine Burial Plan


Cressie Carlyle and Ivan Cohen are the appellants in this case and the appellee of the case is the Guardianship of Hilliard Cohen.

The Appeal

The siblings of the departed, Hilliard Cohen are appealing an order from probate court that requires the deceased to be buried in a Florida graveyard next to his spouse of 40 years instead of being buried in the family plot in a cemetery located in New York.

Case History

A New York Family Lawyer said when Hilliard Cohen passed away, he and Margaret had been married for forty years. The couple had four children together; and Margaret had two other children from her previous marriage. Margaret was not Jewish, but Hilliard was. Some religious holidays were celebrated with the family. However, the couple and their immediate family did not belong to a temple and they did not attend services regularly.

The Cohen family owns a family plot in Mount Hebron Cemetery in New York that was purchased by Hilliard’s grandfather. All of his family as well as their spouses are buried at this Jewish cemetery. The couple, lived in New York until the year 1998 when they left the state of New York and moved to Florida.

Hilliard became ill in 1999 and he and Margaret discussed funeral arrangements. A Nassau County Family Lawyer said he told her that he would like to be buried in the family plot in New York alongside her. However, she was not allowed to be buried there, so he stated that he would like to be buried in Florida with her.

The issue following his death is that it is written in his will that he wanted to be buried in the family plot in New York. However, a Nassau County Child Support Lawyer said several members of his family as well as his doctor stated that Hilliard had made it clear that he wanted to be buried next to Margaret and because she could not be buried at the cemetery in New York, that he wanted to be buried with her in Florida.

Margaret at first was going to have a cremation done However, Cressie Carlyle and Ivan Cohen put a stop to this. Margaret discussed the situation with a rabbi and learned that cremation was against the Jewish religion. For this reason, she decided to purchase plots in the Florida cemetery for her and Hilliard to be buried side by side.

The probate court considered the evidence that was provided and found that the will was vague as to what Hilliard’s intent was because it stated that he wanted a Jewish burial, yet Margaret was not allowed to be buried with him at Mount Hebron. A Nassau Child Support Lawyer said after considering all of the evidence the court found that Hilliard’s true intention was to be buried with his wife. The order of the court was for him to be buried in Florida.

Appeal Verdict

After reviewing the evidence and taking into consideration all of the information that has been provided in the case, it is determined that the ruling from the trial court was correct. The will of Hilliard Cohen is inconclusive. For this reason, the trial court’s ruling that the burial instructions from the will do not have to be followed is upheld. It is impossible to conclude otherwise after hearing the evidence provided that makes it very clear that the deceased wished to be buried next to his wife of 40 years.

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