The simple answer is the Next of Kin. The harder question to answer may be “Who is the Next of Kin?” In Pennsylvania, the next of kin, according to PA Title 20, are listed as follows: a living spouse who is legally married; if there is no living spouse then all adult children, if no adult children then all parents, if no parents then all siblings, if no siblings then all nieces and nephews.
The law is clear that for cremation, all next of kin of the same level need to be in agreement. For example if a deceased has 4 children and one child is not in agreement to the cremation, then the cremation cannot be performed. A judge will need to give a ruling and in most cases the judge will rule with the next of kin who were closest to the deceased.
The law also allows a person to name someone other than the next of kin to authorize their cremation. The document is called a Statement of Contrary Intent and in short this document is used to go above the next of kin as set forth in Title 20. How can this be helpful? In certain situations a person may want to name one of their children as the authorizing agent thereby streamlining the process. Or in certain situations, a person may want to name a “partner” or “significant other” who is not covered as a next of kin and would be unable to provide the authorization.