Cremation or burial? Eulogies by specific friends and family members or none at all? Music? Readings?
While planning your own funeral can feel sad and morbid, failure to document your funeral and disposition wishes can create problems for your already-grieving family. When no instructions are left, the next of kin of the decedent are responsible for making any end-of-life arrangements, starting with (1) legal spouse, New Jersey registered domestic or civil union partner, (2) surviving adult children, (3) surviving parent(s), (4) surviving adult siblings or (5) other relatives according to the degree of relationship. If there are no known living relatives, as outlined above, the funeral director and cemetery may accept the written authorization of other interested parties, such as a friend, neighbor or colleague of the decedent.
Having no one authorized to carry out your last wishes, or your preferences to guide them, can lead to disagreements among the next of kin. Sometimes, these disputes end up in court.
Here are three steps to take to ensure your funeral and burial preferences are met and to spare your family additional grief after your death:
- Appoint an Agent
In New Jersey, a funeral and disposition representative should be named in your Will. A back-up representative should also be named. This person can be the person you named as executor of your Will, or someone different. Either way, be sure the representative you named is aware that you’ve done so and has a copy of both the signed documentation and your funeral and disposition preferences.
- Leave Written Instructions
While funeral and disposition preferences should be documented in the Will, it’s a good idea to keep that information in a separate, accessible location. Sometimes, the Will isn’t reviewed before the funeral, so this ensures your wishes are adhered to. This document is the place to leave all your instructions about how you want your remains handled and your preferred funeral or memorial arrangements. If you want someone specific to recite a certain poem or attendees to adhere to a certain dress code, be sure to express those instructions.
- Make Arrangements in Advance
Contact a funeral home or cemetery to make arrangements for the disposition of your remains. Some offer pre-paid funeral arrangements but be cautious. Make sure your arrangements are made with a reputable, trustworthy funeral home or cemetery.
If you would like assistance including your funeral and disposition wishes in your Will, please contact us at 856.782.8450 to help.