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Falling short on burial expenses in Mohave County

August 9, 2018

Mohave County wants to stop losing money on burying its poorest citizens.

In an attempt to recoup costs of cremating and burying the poor and indigent, Mohave County is asking the state association representing its interests to lobby the Legislature to put teeth behind current laws on debt collection.

Although counties have the ability to recover the costs, they have to wait in line behind named beneficiaries before they can collect the debt owed to dispose of the remains.

Mohave County and others often shoulder the financial burden. This year, Mohave County paid out $33,613 to take care of the remains of its indigent residents, recouping nearly $9,500 of the costs. Tops on the list is Pima County, paying out $320,464 while recouping $28,828.

In a 5-0 board vote Monday, Mohave County Supervisors agreed to seek a legislative fix through the County Supervisor Association.

“We want to see if the association will support our proposal of legislation as a whole,” said Supervisor Buster Johnson. “If not, I will try to introduce this on my own. I think the other counties will agree, because of the costs to everyone. If there was a legislative fix it will make it easier to collect money from a deceased person’s estate.”

Currently, the only way to recover the costs in many cases is through litigation, which adds to the debt.

“It’s becoming increasing worse, not only for our county but others, with family members not taking care of their deceased loved ones,” Johnson said. “I guess they are really not loved ones if they refuse to take care of them. I guess they figure it’s the taxpayers’ responsibility to handle the cremation and burial.”

Johnson wants the law to add language to the state statute, allowing counties to be given priority over named beneficiaries.

Board Chairman Gary Watson agreed, saying it’s a longstanding problem that must be fixed.

“We discussed this last year and it’s just disgusting to me that family members will not take the proper care of their loved ones,” Watson said.

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