Disposition of Final Remains: Save your Loved Ones Headache & Ambiguity
Without a doubt Valentine’s Day can get a cheesy pretty quickly. The idea that that the traditional flowers, chocolates, and a fancy dinner translates into love is an (expensive) oversimplification. There are many different kinds of love—not just the romantic kind—and many different ways to express love. Now thorough February 14 I’m highlighting how these different kinds and expressions of love relate to estate planning with the #PlanningForLove series on this blog.
To me, one major way we can show our loved ones (our family and close friends) that we care about them is by making our wishes known for when we’re no longer there to tell them. Estate planning is one of the best ways to do that, especially concerning wishes regarding what’s to be done with the physical body after death. One of the six main documents a part of any estate plan is called the “disposition of final remains.” In this document you can detail how you want your body to be treated after you pass away along with any ceremonial aspects. You may be as specific or as general as you wish.
If you’ve ever had a someone close to you die and have been tasked with making arrangements for the wake, funeral, and burial or cremation (or otherwise), you know it can be difficult. Not only are you dealing with heartache and grief, but also the organizational aspects of death. If you die without an estate plan and without clear instructions in the disposition of final remains document, you’ll leaving your loved ones with a headache on top of the inevitable heartache. Ambiguity surrounding final remains can lead to infighting between family members if they disagree over what would be best. That’s why taking the time to think through your final services (whatever it is you want) is a wonderful gift and way to show love to your decedents.
Let’s go through some of the basics related to this important, valuable document.
What Does “Final Disposition” Mean Anyway?
Final disposition sounds, well, conclusive. Indeed, this is about what you ultimately want done with your physical body following death and can include burial (sometimes referred to internment), cremation, removal from the state (if you want to be, say, buried in a different state), and other types of disposition. You may also detail if you wish for a funeral or other type of ceremony (maybe even a party) to be held. If you’ve purchased a burial plot or want to be laid to rest in the family mausoleum, you would include those details here.
The words “final disposition” are defined to mean burial, internment, cremation, removal from the state, or other disposition of remains. Of course, the designee must be a competent adult. The Act also allows for alternate designees to be named in the event the primary designee is unable to act. The Declaration is not allowed to include directives for final disposition of remains and arrangements for ceremonies planned after death.
Choose a Designee
In the disposition of final remains document you can designate one or multiple adults to assume responsibility for carrying out your wishes, similar to how you designate an executor to carry out the wishes as written in your will. Your designee (or designees) can be whomever you choose, just be sure to speak with them to make certain they are comfortable and accepting of the role.
If something were to happen to you without a disposition of final remains document in place, the surviving spouse (if there is one) assumes the role as designee. If there is no surviving spouse, then the designee role goes to the any surviving children, followed by the parents of the decedent, then grandchildren, surviving siblings, an d then surviving grandparents.
Can I Change my Mind?
Your wishes may change over time and that’s ok, because the disposition of final remains is revocable. That means you can change your designee if one becomes unable or unwilling. (Regardless if you want to amend your disposition of final remains document, you should review your estate plan annually and if any major life events require updates.)
How do I Start?
Because the disposition of final remains document is a key part of your estate plan, it’s best to get started with my free Estate Plan Questionnaire. Again, your estate plan can be a great way to show you care, so get started before Valentine’s Day! Contact me at any time via email or phone (515-371-6077).