nj.com’s recent article, “Why does a funeral home need my signature?” explains that what happens with funeral arrangements, depends on the deceased’s will and state law.
This issue may become important, depending on whether the deceased designated a funeral agent in his or her will. The funeral agent is the legal way to designate a specific person to arrange your funeral.
To appoint a valid funeral agent, it has to be done in a will or codicil. Any appointments made elsewhere aren’t acceptable. If you want to appoint a funeral agent, visit an experienced estate planning attorney.
Note that the rights of the funeral agent take precedence over the rights of all others. This includes the deceased’s spouse and other relatives, like children and parents. After the death and before the will is probated, the executor will tell the funeral agent that he or she is in charge of the funeral, as well as the amount of money that’s available to spend on funeral arrangements.
Experts advise that you should consider naming a funeral agent in your will, if you don’t have any surviving relatives or close family. When a funeral agent is designated, there will be no issues regarding who is in charge of making your final funeral arrangements. If there’s conflict with family members of equal legal right, such as children, make one of the children your funeral agent and make your wishes known to that individual. If you believe you can’t count on family to follow your wishes, find a trusted friend or companion to serve as your funeral agent.
The hierarchy set in the New Jersey statute is in the following order:
- The funeral agent designated in the will;
- The spouse or civil union partner of the deceased;
- The majority of surviving children over the age of 18;
- The deceased’s parents;
- The majority of surviving siblings over the age of 18; and
- Other relatives, according to the degree of their relationship to the deceased person.
A beneficiary can control the funeral arrangements, only if he or she is also included in the hierarchy detailed in the statute.
Reference: nj.com (April 22, 2019) “Why does a funeral home need my signature?”