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  • Karen McPhail

Having a Funeral Agent- a Critical Part of Long-Term Care Planning


Although funeral planning is essential at some point, no one ever looks forward to doing it. Most individuals delay these details for as long as possible. However, I see many unfortunate situations and unnecessary conflict develop as a result of ignoring to plan or doing poor planning.

I cannot stress enough how important this process is. The laws pertaining to and permitting one to name a designated funeral agent or legal designee for body disposition are beneficial and important. To appoint a valid funeral agent or designee, it must be done in a Will or Codicil. Some states such as Virginia have legal designee forms for completion by the individual, but basic wording can be added to one's will through an estate planning or elder care attorney.


If you have dysfunctional family dynamics, if you are estranged from your family of origin, prefer to use chosen family for support, or were never married to your significant other, the designated agent law allows you to name someone other than a legal spouse or relative to carry out your wishes. Ensure that this is done as a part of your long term care planning!


A designated agent should always be named for body disposition in the case of dysfunctional families. Otherwise, in most cases, all next of kin are legally permitted to participate in the funeral planning, internment, and for cremation all must agree to and sign off on associated forms prior to this being able to be done. One person can hold up cremation and internment for months sadly if proper planning is not done. Often times legal guardians do not realize that once the individual passes they are no longer the primary decision maker - guardianship ends at death. In more than half the states, there is a statutory obligation for survivors to honor the written wishes of the deceased, proper preplanning can help this to happen efficiently and respectfully.


Reach out if you need assistance - we are happy to provide guidance in this regard.


Please see these helpful resources below:

https://funerals.org/?consumers=legal-right-make-decisions-funeral

https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title54.1/chapter28/section54.1-2825/

https://www.morrissett.com/pdf/funeral-designee-form.pdf

https://www.vfda.net/designee-forms/

https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/making-funeral-arrangements-maryland.html

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