Burial or cremation? Military honors? “Green” burial? You can control. Whether or not you have an estate plan, there is one aspect of your passing that may be extremely important to you but which you may have overlooked: funeral planning. Without the proper written documentation of your preferences, your family and friends may not know how to proceed, or may not know which of your loved ones you prefer to have act as the primary decision-maker when it comes to making choices about your final arrangements. However, Wisconsin law allows you to take control, and takes away much of the guesswork about your funeral arrangements.
Section 154.30 of the Wisconsin Statutes allows individuals to create a document known as an “authorization for final disposition”. Under this law, final disposition includes: planning for your viewing, your funeral ceremony (or memorial service, graveside service or other last right), as well as the burial, cremation or donation of your body. The statute permits you to name, in writing, the person you desire to carry out your final arrangements.
In the event that you do not name an agent to make your final arrangement decisions, this statute also provides clarity about who holds the right to make those decisions. The first priority in this statutory list goes to your surviving spouse, followed by your children, then parents, and then siblings. If the responsibility falls to your children or siblings, a majority of those relatives must be in agreement in order to act. If no relative steps forward, then these decisions are made by “any individual … who is willing to control the final disposition and who attests in writing that he or she has made a good faith effort, to no avail,” to locate and contact your family.
For certain Wisconsin residents, creating an authorization document is an essential component of estate planning. If you prefer someone other than the relatives named in the statute, then you should strongly consider creating such an authorization. For example, if you are in a non-traditional relationship or have no surviving spouse, and fear that your children will not follow your preferences, an authorization document can offer substantial benefits. Alternately, if you have concerns that a group of your relatives (such as your children or siblings) working together to make final arrangement decisions for you could trigger severe disagreement and infighting, an authorization may provide a helpful pathway to preserving your final arrangements goals, as well as family harmony.
No one under age 18 may serve as your agent under this document. Additionally, funeral directors, crematory employees, cemetery employees, health care providers and social workers cannot serve, unless they are related to you by marriage, blood or adoption.
As the authorization for final disposition illustrates, complete estate planning involves so much more than just a will or trust. Your plan should provide clear, written instructions regarding all of your wishes in the event of your death or incapacity, including your funeral and internment. To ensure that you have a plan that covers all the decisions that matter to you, contact attorney Daniel J. Krause of Krause Law Offices LLC. Dan has years of experience advising and helping Wisconsinites obtain the peace of mind from knowing that they have a plan to uphold all their most essential goals and desires.
Contact us through our website to schedule your confidential, no obligation initial consultation.