Michigan Law Now Allows for Funeral Representatives to be Appointed
Article by Lindsay Cummings
Michigan now joins the majority of states allowing an individual to designate a funeral representative as part of his or her estate plan. Senate Bill No. 551 was signed into law on March 29, 2016, and will take effect on June 27, 2016. The new law will now allow you to name a funeral representative, who will have full authority to carry out your wishes in regards to your funeral/memorial service, burial/cremation, and final resting place, among other wishes.
Prior to this law passing, a spouse, child, or close relative(s) had the ability to make decisions regarding your final arrangements, but you were not able to designate a specific individual. This inability to appoint an individual funeral representative created many family conflicts. You will now have the authority to appoint anyone as your funeral representative, not just a family member, so long as he or she is over the age of 18. You can also appoint successor representatives in the event that your primary appointment is unable or unwilling to serve.
Under the new law, you may appoint a funeral representative in your Will, Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, or have a separate Funeral Representative Designation prepared. However, if you are a member of the Armed Forces, then an individual will continue to have a representative designated by the appropriate federal law. If you are not a member of the Armed Forces and have not designated a funeral representative, then the new law will give the following individuals authority to act on your behalf in this order of priority:
Children over the age of 18
The new law further states that if the individual you have designated or the individual with first priority cannot be located or is unwilling to serve within 48 hours of your death, then the individual(s) with the next highest priority may act instead. This new law now ensures that your wishes and arrangements cannot, and will not, be delayed due to disagreement between family members.
To be specific, your funeral representative will have the authority to make decisions about your funeral arrangements and the handling or disposition of your body, including, but not limited to, decisions about burial or cremation. Your designated representative will need to sign an acknowledgement of their duties and willingness to act on your behalf. Your representative is responsible and could be held liable for the cost of your final wishes, so it is important that you discuss these responsibilities with your representative and it is recommended that you have insurance or other designated funds set aside for these expenses.
Once you have decided who you would like to have serve as your funeral representative, you will need to speak with your attorney so he or she can incorporate this wish into your estate plan or prepare a separate Funeral Representative Designation. If you do not have a designated funeral representative in place at the time of your death, then the priority list above will likely be the default rule applied.