Q: Should you put funeral instructions in your will?
A: Addressing final arrangements in a will isn’t something that is done very often today. Because there are better options, you just don’t see it much anymore.
If you add instructions in your will addressing final arrangements, they are enforceable. The problem is by the time the family starts looking for the will, chances are the loved one has already been laid to rest. Let’s face it, the first thought that people have after losing a loved one is rarely “Let’s find the will.”
A better option is to execute a Funeral Planning Declaration. In an FPD, the creator gives someone the legal authority to make final arrangements. The creator can also leave detailed instructions about what they want those final arrangements to look like. The idea is that you designate a person that you trust to carry out your final instructions and to make decisions that aren’t covered.
Although FPDs are still fairly new, they are becoming more common in estate plans. When FPDs first became available, I would only use them when the client anticipated a problem or if they had an unusual request. Now they are becoming almost as common as Powers of Attorney.
Speaking of POAs, they also can play a role in final arrangements. As most of you know the authority granted under a POA terminates upon the death of the principal.
However, the one power that survives the death of the principal is the authority to dispose of the remains. FDP still controls, but if you don’t have one, the attorney in fact named in a POA may have the authority to make final arrangements.
If you don’t have an FDP or a POA, things become a little murkier. Fortunately, the Indiana Code provides some guidance as to who has the authority to make final arrangements. The order is what you probably expect: Spouse, child, parent and sibling.
Planning for your final arrangements may not be as important as who gets your stuff, but it is important. I’m all about avoiding problems and a little forethought can go a long way. For me, the FDP is the document that you need. It’s clear concise and enforceable.
Finally, if you don’t want to add final arrangements to your estate plan, consider pre-planning with the funeral director of your choice. Leaving instructions with a funeral home may not be legally enforceable but it carries a lot of moral authority. Your kids are a lot more likely to follow the instructions that you leave behind even if they don’t agree with them.