Here’s a New Idea: A Funeral Representative

A relatively new state law aims to let you still have a final say, even in death, by naming a funeral representative who will determine your arrangements and final resting place.

If you live in Michigan, your next of kin gets to decide what happens to your remains, even if it’s not what you had wanted. However, a fairly new state law is working to let you have the final say, even after you have died, by appointing a funeral representative who will be in charge of your funeral arrangements, including your final resting place.

This makes sense, says the Detroit Free Press in the article titled “Law helps ensure your family follows your funeral wishes in Michigan.” For one thing, it eliminates the family bickering during a very sensitive time. 

One example of this, is the family battle going on with a Michigan funeral home that is trying, unsuccessfully, to return the cremated remains to family members of the decedent. Some family members say they would have claimed the remains earlier, but they were not next of kin. 

Another big issue that this would solve: family battles over where loved ones are ultimately buried.

In this example, a man wanted to be buried next to his deceased wife. However, the second spouse wanted him to be buried in another cemetery. When the second wife’s wishes prevailed, the family and the children from the first marriage were not happy. 

This law, which actually took effect in 2016, gives a representative the authority to make decisions about your funeral and resting place and can sort out confusion and minimize the unpleasantness among surviving family members. 

It’s a big responsibility and includes the responsibility of making sure that funeral expenses are paid. Here are some additional facts about being a funeral representative:

The funeral representative is designated to have the right and power to make decisions about funeral arrangements and handling, deposition or disinterment of a decedent’s body, including the right to possess the cremated remains.

Here’s the order in which a funeral representative is selected if no one is named: a person designed under federal law, usually if the person is serving in the military; the designated funeral representative; a surviving spouse; adult children; adult grandchildren; parent; grandparents and siblings.

You can name a funeral representative in Michigan in your will, by power of attorney, or a separate document that has two witnesses and is notarized.

Some people cannot serve as a funeral representative: a licensed health professional, an employee of a health or veterans’ facility that provided care, an officer or employee of a funeral home, crematory or cemetery providing services. Anyone who has been charged with murdering you, may not serve.

The role of funeral representative can be revoked at any time, in the same manner that it is given, with a notarized written notice that has been witnessed by two people. The law also automatically revokes the power to a named ex-spouse.

Talk with your estate planning attorney about having a funeral representative, especially if you believe that there will be some controversy about your funeral and burial wishes, even if you don’t live in Michigan. Each state will have a means of conveying your wishes and ensuring that they are carried out.

Reference: Detroit Free Press (Nov. 2, 2018) “Law helps ensure your family follows your funeral wishes in Michigan”

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