Burial & Memorial Arrangements
An important estate planning
consideration that sometimes gets overlooked is the funeral, burial and
memorial arrangements. What do you want? Who do you want to be in charge? How will the expenses be paid? Do you wish to have your burial site cared and
maintained on a regular basis? Let’s
examine your options.
Your funeral, burial and memorial
wishes should be memorialized in a written instrument, such as your advance
health care directive; but the instrument can also be written in a letter to
your executor, or your will. Your
written instructions regarding the disposition of your remains and any funeral
goods and services must be faithfully observed; provided that your directions
are clear and complete, and that necessary payment arrangements have been made.
Financial arrangements can involve insurance,
funds designated for that purpose, or prepayment with a funeral director or
Your directions regarding internment
should say whether you wish cremation or burial. And, if cremation is involved, where and how
your ashes should be spread or interred.
The person whom you want in charge should be named as agent in your
advance health care directive. Your
health care agent has first priority over anyone else in regards to disposing
of your bodily remains.
Otherwise, if there is no health
care agent, your next of kin (in order of priority) have the legal authority
and responsibility to dispose of your remains.
Your next of kin are secondarily
responsible to pay for the cost of disposing of your remains in the event that
your estate is unable to pay the costs.
Those who wish to preserve their
burial gravesite in good order may leave money for its care and
maintenance. The arrangement for the
care of one’s burial site can occur at the time when the site is purchased by
you while alive; or, after your death, as a bequest in your will or trust paid
to the cemetery.
If you have or will purchase a
gravesite, enquire whether the cemetery maintains an endowment care fund to care
and maintain the cemetery and/or specific sites. Such cemetery endowments may remain in
existence for perpetuity so long as the money lasts and the cemetery remains in
existence. The money can be used for the
improvement, embellishment, planting or cultivation of the cemetery generally,
or for the care improvement, repair, planting, or cultivation of any part of or
plot in the cemetery. Paying the
cemetery in advance of your passing is the most common approach.
Alternatively, if relevant, you may
make a gift of money to a church, or other qualified charitable beneficiary, for
the same purposes. Lastly, leaving money
in a so-called “honorary trust” to be established after you die is the
least desirable approach as such honorary trusts are unenforceable and may
exist for no more than twenty-one (21) years.
When no such arrangements are made
the results can be detrimental for the surviving loved ones. Bickering over the details (such as where
someone gets buried) and paying the expenses is common and can get very ugly. It is best, therefore, that you shoulder the responsibility
of planning for your funeral, burial and memorial and not leave it by default to
your grieving surviving family.
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