Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Morris
IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF JOHN E. TRAVERS, JR.
Decided: November 17, 2017
A. Mucerino, Esq., attorney for petitioner and
cross-respondent, John E. Travers, Sr. (Golden, Rothschild,
Spagnola, Lundell, Boylan & Garubo, P.C.).
P. Fierro, Esq., attorney for respondent and
cross-petitioner, Katherine Coyle Travers (Mark P. Fierro,
matter was opened to the court on a petition and
cross-petition by each of the surviving parents of decedent,
John E. Travers, Jr., who died unexpectedly on September 19,
2017, at the age of twenty-two. Oral argument was held on
October 30, 2017. Decedent was unmarried and died without
issue, without a will, and without any written directive
regarding his funeral or disposition of remains.
Decedent's parents, who are divorced, differ on how their
son's remains should be disposed, and each seeks control
over the remains pursuant to N.J.S.A. 45:27-22.
Decedent's father, John E. Travers, Sr., wishes his
son's remains to be buried, while decedent's mother,
Katherine Coyle Travers, wishes her son's remains to be
cremated. The parties have admirably reached
agreement on every other aspect of the administration of
their son's estate, including funeral arrangements and
estate distribution, and now seek assistance from the court
to resolve this one significant issue.
pertinent part of the New Jersey Cemetery Act, N.J.S.A.
45:27-22 (Control of funeral, disposition of remains) (the
"Statute"), provides as follows:
a. If a decedent, in a will as defined in N.J.S. 3B:1-2,
appoints a person to control the funeral and disposition of
the human remains, the funeral and disposition shall be in
accordance with the instructions of the person so appointed.
A person so appointed shall not have to be executor of the
will. The funeral and disposition may occur prior to probate
of the will, in accordance with section 40 of P.L.2003, c.261
(C.3B:10-21.1). If the decedent has not left a will
appointing a person to control the funeral and disposition of
the remains, the right to control the funeral and disposition
of the human remains shall be in the following order, unless
other directions have been given by a court of competent
(1) The surviving spouse of the decedent.
(2) A majority of the surviving adult children of the
(3) The surviving parent or parents of the decedent.
(4) A majority of the brothers and sisters of the decedent.
(5) Other next-of-kin of the decedent according to the degree
(6) If there are no know living relatives, a cemetery may
rely on the written authorization of any other person acting
on behalf of the decedent.
role of the Court in statutory interpretation 'is to
determine and effectuate the Legislature's
intent.'" Marino v. Marino, 200 N.J. 315,
329 (2009) (citing Bosland v. Warnock Dodge, Inc.,
197 N.J. 543, 553 (2009)). The court must first look to the
plain language of the statute to determine whether the
Legislature's intent can be derived from the words it has
chosen. Ibid. (citing Pizzullo v. N.J. Mfrs.
Ins. Co., 196 N.J. 251, 264 (2008)). "[I]f the
plain language of the statute is not clear or if it is
susceptible to more than one possible meaning or
interpretation, courts may look to extrinsic secondary
sources to serve as their guide." Ibid.
accord with the Statute, if a decedent has not left a will
appointing a person to control disposition and has no
surviving spouse or adult children, the Statute confers the
right to control the funeral arrangements and disposition of
the remains to the surviving parents of the deceased.
N.J.S.A. 45:27-22a(3); Gately v. Hamilton Mem'l Home,
Inc., 442 N.J.Super. 542, 554 (App. Div. 2015).
Moreover, in the event of a dispute, our Supreme Court has
confirmed that ...