How to Address Your Funeral Arrangements as Part of Estate Planning in New Jersey

It can be easy to disregard certain elements of estate planning when you’re giving attention to seemingly more important items like what will happen to your property and other assets after you’re gone. However, considering your own funeral arrangements is an important step that can ensure your wishes are met, while also lightening that burden on your loved ones.

Who is in charge of Funeral Arrangements?

Generally, if you don’t leave any specifications or wishes referencing funeral arrangements, these decisions will be made by your loved ones according to the priority provided for by New Jersey law. This first right belongs to any surviving spouses, then children over 18, followed by surviving parents, then siblings, and finally any other relatives with interest in the funeral planning process. These people will have complete control over what happens to your body, where the funeral or memorial service is held, who is invited, what occurs during the ceremony, and how it is paid for.

It is a reasonable approach to simply leave the decisions to whoever has priority as your agent at the time of your passing, but it means giving away control over what happens to your body and how you are remembered. In addition, it can put unnecessary pressure on, or cause contention among, your loved ones. So, what are your other options?

How can I Control My Own Funeral Arrangements?

If you want more control over how your funeral is arranged, you can start by creating a final arrangements document to pair with your final Will and Testament. In this document, you may detail any requests you have about how your body or funeral service is handled following your passing. You can be as specific or general as you want to be in this document, though the more specific you are, the more likely it is to be helpful for your loved ones. In this document, you can also appoint a Funeral Agent. This person will be in charge of carrying out the wishes described in your final arrangements document, as well as making any other necessary decisions regarding the service.

You can also consider how your funeral expenses should be paid for. One option is to use an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust, which is funded by your life insurance. This money can be appointed to your designated trustee, and then applied to your funeral expenses. You can also list specific assets to be used toward your funeral expenses or even set up a payment plan. This will help relieve some of the stress on your loved ones who would otherwise have to arrange all of this themselves.

What to Consider When Planning Funeral Arrangements

When creating your final arrangements document, there is a lot to consider. First of all, do you want a funeral or a memorial service? Funerals typically take place much sooner after your death and include the attendance of your body. On the other hand, memorial services can happen after a longer period of time and usually don’t include your body. If you do choose to have a funeral, you can specify if you’d rather be buried or cremated. If buried, you can detail if you would rather the funeral be an open or closed casket. Similarly, if you choose to be cremated, you can specify where you want your ashes spread.

Other things to consider include where you would like the ceremony to take place, the guest list, and who you want to be notified of your death. If you want to be very specific, you can even include the music you want to be played or the types of flowers you want to be displayed.  Taking all of these steps might seem daunting or uncomfortable at first, but it will make a difference to your loved ones when their burden is lessened during a difficult time.

If you have any further questions about funeral arrangements and estate planning, do not hesitate to contact Ward, Shindle & Hall.