(WSVN) - When her husband passed away, she wanted to bury him in Broward County, but his daughter flew him to Maryland to be buried. Who controls the casket? It’s why the call went out to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
This summer, Mary lost her husband Walter.
Mary Miller Frank: “He died August the 8th, 4:44 in the morning he died.”
A few hours later, she lost his body.
Mary Miller Frank: “She paid the people, the undertaker, to ship the body out of the state.”
Mary and Walter had been together for 20 years.
Mary Miller Frank: “He loved me, and I loved him.”
Then Walter developed health problems. In 2015, he gave Mary power of attorney to be his caretaker and the beneficiary of a $75,000 insurance policy to help pay to bury him when he passed away.
In 2021, they got married to make it easier to make his medical decisions.
Mary Miller Frank: “He wanted to get married.”
When Walter died, Mary wanted his body sent to one funeral home, but it was sent to another one.
Mary went there to correct that.
Mary Miller Frank: “‘This is my husband. I have a power of attorney. I have a marriage license. You cannot take my husband and send him out of the state.'”
But Mary was told Walter’s daughter from his first marriage had paid for a casket and was flying him back to Maryland to be buried.
Mary says the news crushed her.
Mary Miller Frank: “It was a heart in pain and sorrow. I had a seizure after that. I wound up in the hospital myself.”
When Walter’s first wife died of a heart attack, Walter built a mausoleum in Washington, D.C. to be buried next to her.
But after they got together, Mary says, he changed his mind and wanted to be buried next to her in Broward County.
Mary Miller Frank: “He said he never wants to go to Washington and be a resident of snow and cold.”
Now Mary is left with Walter’s pictures on the walls, the clothes and boots she wanted to bury him in by his bed, and the last memory of him when he passed away at the hospital.
Mary Miller Frank: “I kissed him. I told him goodbye. I told him I love him.”
Two months have passed since that day. For two months, Walter’s body has sat in a funeral home, as Mary tries to return him to South Florida.
Mary Miller Frank: “She needs to send his body back. I want him to be buried here.”
Well, Howard, who has the control of the casket? The daughter from the first marriage, or Mary, the second wife?
Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “Both sides might be right. Mary, because she is the current wife and had power of attorney, shows Walter trusted her to make decisions, but the fact he built a mausoleum for himself and his first wife seems to show he wanted his daughter to bury him there. To be perfectly honest, it is not clear who has the power.”
I spoke to Margurite Miller, Walter’s daughter, who flew his casket back to Maryland. She said her father had developed dementia over the past few years, but before that, he wanted to be buried in his mausoleum. Mary was stopping them from doing that.
After I spoke to her a couple more times, she said that she was Catholic, that she wanted her father to be at peace and put to rest. She would then pay to fly his casket back to Broward for Mary to bury Walter.
I went back to Mary, who said she wouldn’t accept the casket unless Margurite paid for the cemetery plots.
Mary Miller Frank: “I need somebody to help me bury my husband here because I don’t have the money. It’s gonna cost at least $16,000.”
Margurite said she didn’t have the money.
More weeks passed by. The Maryland funeral home then said Walter’s body was considered abandoned, and they needed to bury him.
They did … in the mausoleum next to his first wife.
Mary was obviously not happy.
Mary Miller Frank: “Terrible. Terrible, because I feel he’s not a part of me no more. I wanted him here, to be in Margate, Florida.”
Walter did not have a will. As for that $75,000 insurance policy from 2015, Mary can’t find any paperwork or proof of it. She is still searching.
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With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.
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