Burial, Cremation, Something Else – Who Gets to Decide?

I often get questions from individuals about how decisions will be made about disposition of their remains following death.  Whether to bury or cremate? Where the body will be interred?  Where the ashes will be spread?  These can become flash points of disagreement in the family.  One of the ways we can help our family is to make our wishes known, clearly and in writing.  Most states allow you to formally appoint a person or persons who will be in charge of making decisions regarding your remains following your death.  How this is done may vary from state, so it is important to consult the law of the state you reside in.  Here are some of the items you may want to consider including:

  1. Name an agent and at least one back-up.

  2. State whether you want to be buried, cremated, or something else.

  3. State where you would like to be interred or have your ashes spread.

  4. State whether you would like a funeral, graveside service, or other memorial.

  5. Include any other wishes concerning clergy, scriptures, musical selections, pallbearers, etc.

I strongly believe that estate planning is about family and handling matters in a way that will minimize the likelihood of disputes.  Including your wishes about the disposition of your remains is one way you can try and achieve that result.  One last thing, because it is about family, make sure you talk to your family about this and let them hear your wishes in addition to seeing them on paper someday.