A few years ago the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) conducted a survey that found only 25.5% of people had made advanced funeral arrangements. In some of those cases, it’s just a conversation. Nothing is actually documented for reference when the time comes.
If you’re among the 74.5% of people who haven’t specified their end-of-life wishes, then someone else will get to decide what type of funeral you have. In many states, if the deceased didn’t make their preferences known in writing and haven’t named a designated agent for body disposition, a legal spouse or next of kin will make the decisions.
This is not a good situation for yourself or the loved ones you leave behind. Without documentation that makes your preferences clear, relatives could disagree over funeral arrangements. It can also cause unnecessary stress when your loved ones already have a lot to deal with.
Do everyone a favor and document your end-of-life wishes so that there’s no questions or disputes about how you want to be laid to rest.
5 Ways to Get Your End of Life Wishes in Writing
The majority of states have personal preference laws that require survivors to honor the end-of-life wishes of the deceased if those wishes are in writing. Even states without personal preference laws will uphold written documentation specifying preferences.
Here are five ways you can get your end-of-life wishes in writing.
Name an Agent for Body Disposition
Do you have a spouse, friend or family member that knows what you want and respects your decisions? If so, they could be a good agent for body disposition. Designated agent laws allow you to name anyone, regardless of your relationship, to manage the funeral arrangements based on your end-of-life wishes. The only way the agent can deviate from your specifications is if they are deemed unreasonable, financially burdensome or illegal.
Name a Successor Trustee
If you care more about costs than what’s actually involved with a funeral you may want to create a living trust and name a successor trustee who will manage assets in the trust on your behalf after you pass away. The successor trustee will make sure funds are distributed properly, including money for funeral arrangements if they are specified.
Create a Last Will and Testament
One of the most important documents you can create in life is a last will and testament. It’s a legal document that is used to specify how your assets will be distributed after your death. You can also a last will and testament to name guardians for children under 18 years old, leave instructions for how an estate should be run and provide funeral instructions.
It’s important to name an executor for your will who will be in charge of carrying it out. The executor should be someone you trust will respect your end-of-life wishes. You can also choose to name joint executors, such as a spouse and a lawyer if the financial affairs are complicated.
Make Advanced Funeral Arrangements
Another way to ensure that you get the funeral you envision is to go ahead and make the arrangements yourself. You can plan for and pay for every aspect of a funeral years before the services are actually needed. Some people consider it an extension of their last will and testament that guarantees wishes will be honored.
If you decide to make advanced funeral arrangements here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Write out a detailed plan that specifies what you want and who is responsible for making it happen.
- If you plan to pay for services, a burial plot, or any other item in advance always get the agreement in writing and get an invoice that shows payment has been made.
- Know your state’s laws on how funds should be handled for prearranged or prepaid funeral services.
- Get information on what will happen if the funeral home goes out of business.
- Clarify how you will be reimbursed if you decide to cancel the services.
- Find out what will happen if you move away or pass away in another location.
For more advice, check out the FTC’s guide on planning your own funeral.
Register as an Organ and Tissue Donor
Did you see our recent article on how organ donation affects cremation? If you did, then you may already know that you need to register as an organ donor if that’s your intention. You can register at organdonor.gov and your wish to donate will be part of your medical records.
If you have any questions about your cremation options or want to make advanced arrangements, Green Cremation Texas is available by phone, text, and email 24 hours a day.