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Who has the Legal Authority to Make Decisions When You Die?

Man with urnWhen funeral arrangements are being made, the Funeral Director is often caught in the middle, between family members and wishes for the type of funeral being planned.  You may think that when a family’s mother or father has died and a funeral has to be planned, that the family would be a cohesive decision making unit.  This is often not the case.  When death and money mix, various family members can have radically different views as to the type of funeral to plan and merchandise to select for the funeral.  This is especially the case if mom or dad did not preplan or prepay his or her own funeral arrangements.  In this blog post, we’ll talk about who has the legal authority to make decisions when you die.

I have been assisting families when they all look around the table and ask each other if mom or dad ever talked about the kind of funeral they wanted.  Did they want burial or cremation? Did they want a service in the Church or the Chapel?  Blank stares and the “deer in the headlight look” come over the families’ faces and they are left in a lurch to learn about funeral planning, their options, merchandise selections – all the while wondering if this is really what mom or dad would have wanted.  I know of one family, whose father died and he never spoke about the type of funeral he wanted, nor whether it was to be burial or cremation.  The families’ consensus finally was to have a service for dad and then have him cremated.  Everyone felt good with that decision and process – until they found the will and read it to find out that he preferred burial!  Oh Dear!  We do not have the technology to un-cremate a person and now the family is left with the memory that they did not do what their father had wanted done.

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