Whenever I surf the web, I keep an eye out for postings that involve estate planning and settlement. I know it's a little weird but remember, I am an estate planning geek.
While I was on the internet the other day I came across a posting that claimed to list unusual provisions found in wills. It was the usual stuff like people leaving all of their money to their pets and odd organizations. It also listed odd funeral and final arrangements.
Of all the strange things that were listed in the article, the only one to elicit a chuckle related to the inventor of the Pringles can. According to the article, some of the man's ashes were placed in a Pringles can and buried. That my friends is what we in the business would call an unusual request. Now don't get me wrong folks: I don't believe most of anything that I read on the internet. However, I can tell you that this story appears on the gentleman's Wikipedia page so obviously, it must be true.
Now folks, I've had clients ask to include what some would consider unusual requests in their estate plans. For the most part, I tried to accommodate them. Occasionally I have had someone request something that I was simply unable or unwilling to do. In those cases, the requests were either not included or the client was carefully direct to other counsel.
It has been my experience that most people don't include final arrangements in their estate plans. Sometimes they have pre-planned their funerals but usually, they simply aren't concerned about it. They simply trust that their families will know what to do. However, in those circumstances where the client has concerns that that family won't know what to do or won't do what the client wants, final arrangements need to be included in the estate plan.
In years past, final arrangements were often times included in the will. Now a days, including final arrangements in the will is pretty rare, at least for my practice. The reason is simple; by the time the family looks for the will, mom has already been buried or cremated. Rarely is the family's first thought after the death of a loved one to look for the will.
What we use now is a Planning Declaration. A Funeral Planning Declaration is sort of a Power of Attorney for your final arrangements. You designate someone and grant them the authority to carry out your final instructions or grant them the authority to make those decisions on your behalf. Your instructions can be detailed or vague depending on your concerns.
Finally, for those of you who have powers of attorney, you may have designated someone to make final arrangements for you without even knowing it. That is because the one power to survive death is the authority to dispose of remains. If you have a POA, you might want to blow the dust off of it and review it because you might have designated someone to make these decisions without even knowing it.
For most of you, final arrangements aren't a concern. However for those of you who want to be buried in a Pringles can, planning may be in order.