- Consumers who prepay their funerals in New York State have strong safeguards to protect the integrity of the funds they have set aside for their final arrangements, and to ensure that these funds will be available when needed.
However, many consumers who pre-plan their funerals neglect to address an important issue. Who do they want to control the actual funeral plans? Traditionally this person has been a spouse or next-of-kin who carries out the wishes of the deceased. But today's society includes more non-traditional family structures. "Blended" family members, step-children, domestic partners, former spouses and others may argue that they are the only ones who should be responsible for controlling funeral plans.
It has been apparent for some time that the question of "who controls" a person's final disposition has been a growing concern for funeral directors who can sometimes find themselves in the middle of a disagreement or family dispute as to the method and procedure of a loved one's funeral.
New York State law now allows a person to appoint an agent to carry out and control his or her final disposition if he or she chooses to bypass the "next-of-kin" hierarchy enumerated in the law. By appointing an agent, an individual is making sure that his or her wishes are honored by significantly reducing any chance that family members or others who disagree with these plans can alter them. A person may appoint an agent by completing a form titled "Appointment of Agent to Control Disposition of Remains." An agent must be 18 years of age or older and can be a relative or friend or anyone a person wishes to act as his or her agent. The form can be obtained from the individual's funeral director when funeral pre-arrangements are being finalized.
It is important to discuss your final wishes with your designated agent and/or family. You don't want them to learn of your plans only after you die, when it's too late to ask you about them. Copies of all documents relating to funeral plans should be given to the designated agent, spouse or next-of-kin and the estate executor to guarantee that funeral plans will be carried out as the decedent intended. It is not advisable to keep these documents in a safety deposit box or in an attorney's office because doing so may make them inaccessible immediately after death.
The New York State Funeral Directors Association (NYSFDA) has published an organizer, "The Personal and Financial Affairs Check List" to help an individual locate and record important financial records and personal information that will be useful to whomever has been designated to carry out funeral plans. It can be obtained by going to NYSFDA's website at www.nysfda.org
and clicking on "Preplanning a Funeral" or calling NYSFDA at 800-291-2629.
Knowing the decedent's wishes is important for the designated agent, and to relieve loved ones of making decisions at a stressful time.