One way we can show our loved ones how much 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 what’s to be done with our physical body after death. One of the six main documents that are 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 requests. You may be as general or specific as you wish.
SIX “MUST HAVE” DOCUMENTS OF YOUR ESTATE PLAN
As discussed in 12 Things Every Iowan Should Know About Estate Planning, there are six documents that should be part of most everyone’s estate plan:
- Estate planning questionnaire
- Power of attorney for health care
- Power of attorney for financial matters
- Disposition of personal property
- Disposition of final remains
Let’s now turn to the Disposition of Final Remains.
If you’ve ever had someone close to you die, and been tasked with making arrangements for the wake, funeral, and burial or cremation, you know it can be difficult. Not only are you dealing with the heartache and grief of losing a loved one, but now you’re also tasked with the organizational aspects of death.
If you die without an estate plan, and without clear instructions in a disposition of final remains document, you’ll be leaving your loved ones with a huge headache on top of the inevitable heartache. Perhaps even worse, ambiguity surrounding disposition of final remains can lead to tension between family members if they disagree over what would be best. Therefore, taking the time to think through your final services is a wonderful gift, and a great way to show your loved ones how much you care.
Let’s go through some of the basics related to this important, valuable document.
WHAT DOES “FINAL DISPOSITION” MEAN ANYWAY?
Final disposition sounds, well, final. Indeed, this is about what you ultimately want to be done with your physical body following death. This may include burial (sometimes referred to interment), cremation, removal from the state (if you want to be buried in a different state), and other types of disposition. If you wish, you may also detail preference that 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.
Again, your instructions in the Final Disposition of Remains may be as general or specific as you wish. Some of my clients have insisted that there be only the shortest and simplest of memorial services. Others have wanted a marching band and fireworks shooting their ashes into the sky. (Yes, that is a thing). It’s completely up to you.
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 (sometimes also referred to as “representatives”) can be whomever you choose, just be sure to speak with them to make certain they are comfortable and accepting of the role.
Of course, the designee must be a competent adult. The document also allows for alternate designees to be named in the event the primary designee is unable to act.
CAN I CHANGE MY MIND?
Your wishes may change over time and that’s OK! The disposition of final remains is revocable, meaning you can change the document at any time. For example, you can name a new and different your designee if s/he becomes unable or unwilling. Regardless of whether or not you want to amend your disposition of final remains document, you should review your estate plan annually to see if any major life events require updates.
HOW DO I START?
It’s always a good time to make a plan that saves your loved one’s headaches and heartache after your death. The disposition of final remains document is a key part of your estate plan, so a great place to get started is my free Estate Plan Questionnaire.
*OK, not everything. But many things, let’s say, an excellent start.