Our state has adopted a new law allowing people to designate a "Funeral Representative."
What is this Funeral Representative?
A Funeral Representative is a person who has the authority to make all arrangements for your funeral and burial after you die. This is different from previous years when the law stated that only a person's next of kin was in control of funeral and burial arrangements. The next of kin rule was less than ideal for several reasons.
When no spouse was present, all children had to sign off to agree to the funeral arrangements. (How often does a group of people always agree on all aspects? Rarely!!)
If the individual had a second or third spouse, or even short term marriage, the new spouse trumped the children and any of their wishes for their deceased parent.
The deceased individual's wishes may not be followed if the next of kin decided to do something different.
Designating a Funeral Representative changes the above scenarios. You get to choose the Funeral Representative prior to your death, and that Funeral Representative exclusively has the power to make funeral decisions on your behalf. The only question remaining is whether they HAVE to follow your previously made arrangements. I would argue they do given that the power arises out of an advance directive appointing them to the position. If the power given is to be abided by, certainly so should the previously made decisions of the deceased.
The Michigan Funeral Director's Association says otherwise. They state that the law is not an advanced directive such as other states have developed but that it is meant to protect the deceased individual's right to choose who should be in charge of funeral decisions. The Michigan Courts will be the ultimate deciding factor, but it does point in the right direction. And, it makes clear the importance of choosing the right person for such a job. A person who will abide by your wishes as the deceased.
The alternative to not listing a represented leaves too much open to fighting amongst those you leave behind. And where death is concerned, we, as humans, are incredibly emotional and far less rational than we ought to be in those tense situations of loss. A Funeral Representative uncomplicates the entire process and will save a far greater headache down the road for your heirs.
We have placed this language in both the Power of Attorney documents we draft as well as the Last Will and Testament documents we draft.
If you haven't had your estate plan updated recently, nominating a Funeral Representative may be a good reason to come in and get it updated!