A Funeral Agent is not mandatory in your estate plan—however, it is a wise idea in order to avoid the following scenario….
Our client, recently passed at the age of 94. Having completed extensive estate planning, she had decided not to appoint a Funeral Agent, because she believed no family member would interfere with her funeral arrangements, which were preplanned and paid for in advance by herself. Upon her death, her sister immediately objected when she learned of the funeral arrangements. The sister, who was NOT the Executor had no knowledge of the beneficiaries of the estate and demanded the decedent’s funeral arrangements not be honored as the decedent had planned. The executor was following the decedent’s intentions which had been prepared by the decedent and the funeral home.
Without the designation of a Funeral Agent in her Will, or Codicil, New Jersey law (N.J.S.A.45:27-22) states the order of designation as follows:
1. Legal spouse or civil union partner;
2. Majority of surviving children;
3. Surviving parent(s);
4. Majority of surviving siblings over the age of 18;
5. Other relatives according to the degree of relationship;
6. If no other known living relatives, the funeral director may accept written authorization of other interested parties.
Fortunately, in our case, the decedent’s sister relinquished her right to change the funeral arrangements with the proper explanation of the law.
The lesson to be learned here is that your Executor does not have the final say on your funeral arrangements. The appointment of a Funeral Agent in your Will and/or Codicil will ensure your wishes are followed.
It is time to add this designation to your Last Will and Testament.