Who will make arrangements for your funeral?

The Facts: I am an only child, widowed and have no children. I have very specific wishes relating to my funeral and burial.

The Question: Since I have no parents, spouse, children or siblings, who will be in charge of my remains and responsible for arranging my funeral and burial?

How It Works: Generally, a person’s parents, spouse or children have the authority to make funeral and burial arrangements for that person. However, since these people do not exist in your case, you should consider naming an agent to make these arrangements for you.  In New York there is a statute that allows you to do just that. You may appoint anyone you wish, including a friend, relative or clergy person, to make all the necessary funeral and burial arrangements. Of course, before naming anyone as your agent for this purpose, you should discuss your wishes with that person to be sure he/she is willing to take on the responsibility of making sure your funeral and burial plans are implemented.

In order to legally appoint someone to control your remains and handle your funeral and burial, you must name your agent in a document titled “Appointment of Agent to Control Disposition of Remains”. I generally refer to the documents as a Disposition of Remains Statement or DRS.  In the DRS, you not only identify the person who will actually be carrying out your wishes with respect to your funeral and burial, but you can also set forth exactly what those arrangements should be. For example, you can identify the funeral home you want used, whether you want to be buried or cremated, what music should be played at your wake or if you want a religious graveside service. You can be as detailed as you wish, going so far as to set forth what food should be served at any post burial luncheon  that may be arranged and what clothing and jewelry you want to have on when you are buried.

As an alternative to stating your wishes in the DRS and hoping that your agent is able to make the necessary arrangements, you can preplan your entire funeral and burial with the funeral home of your choice in advance. If you preplan your funeral, you will have the option of prepaying for the arrangements as well. That way your agent’s responsibilities will be limited to making arrangements for your remains to be brought to the funeral home and notifying the people who would likely be attending the funeral.

Whatever route you decide to take, you should seek the assistance of an elder law attorney to be sure the DRS is properly prepared and executed.

This article first appeared in the April 28, 2016 issue of the Times Beacon Newspapers.

Linda M. Toga provides personalized service and peace of mind to her clients in the areas of estate planning, estate administration, Medicaid planning, wills and trusts, marital agreements, small business services, real estate and litigation. Visit her website at www.lmtogalaw.com or call 631-444-5605 to schedule a free consultation.