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After you die, your relatives will be mourning the loss of you.  To make things as easy on them as possible, it is a good idea to define what type of ceremony you would like and what you would like done with your body. This can be done by making arrangements with the mortuary yourself -- making your passing as easy as possible on your loved ones -- or by writing down your final wishes. Whatever approach is used, it generally is not a good idea to prepay funeral expenses since you have no assurances that the mortuary will be in business when you die.   

A will is generally not a good place to express your final wishes since it many times is not located and read until several weeks after you die.  We suggest that you write down your final wishes and give them to loved ones.

If you die without leaving written instructions about your final wishes, state law will determine who will decide how your remains will be handled. In most states, the right and the responsibility to pay for the reasonable costs of disposing of remains rests with the following people, in order of priority:

  • spouse

  • child or children

  • parent or parents

  • the next of kin, or

  • a public administrator, who is appointed by a court.

Without defining your final wishes in writing, disputes commonly arise if two or more people cannot agree if your body should be buried or cremated.

What you choose to include is a very personal matter. Things to consider for inclusion in your final arrangements document include:

  • The name of the mortuary or other institution that will handle burial or cremation

  • Whether you wish to be embalmed

  • The type of casket to be used if you opt to be buried

  • The type of container used if you opt to be cremated

  • The details of any ceremonies you want before and after burial, internment or scattering of your ashes.

  • Who your pallbearers will be

  • Where your remains will be buried, stored or scattered

  • The marker and wording used to show where your remains are buried or interred.