If you have wishes regarding your funeral services or burial arrangements, there are various ways to make such wishes known. While funeral or burial arrangements are usually handled outside of a Will (or Trust), they are important to plan for because they are often the first issue to consider following death and must be dealt with quickly, in a time of emotional upheaval.
As a general rule, the funeral home will follow the instructions of your next of kin, in the following order of priority: spouse, otherwise adult children, then parents, and then siblings or a guardian. At a minimum, you should speak with your family about any preferences you may have. If you do not want these family members to make the decisions for you or if you’d like to reduce the burden on your family, you should consider taking steps now to clarify your wishes.
The most direct method is to make arrangements with the funeral home or cemetery to purchase and pay for your funeral, burial or cremation. Prearrangements eliminate any doubt and provide relief to your family in a stressful and difficult time.
If you aren’t ready to enter into a contract with a funeral home, you can provide written instructions to the named Personal Representative of your estate. In the absence of a contract with a funeral home, these wishes should be followed by the Personal Representative and the funeral home. However, as it may take the family a few days to access the Will and file, even this type of a written letter poses some administrative difficulties.
There are more and more options these days, from “green burials” to informal celebrations of life. Do not assume your family, next of kin or nominated Personal Representative is aware of your wishes. It is best to share your preferences by putting your wishes in writing, or better yet, into a contract.