Will Your Family Know (and Respect) Your Funeral Wishes?

At the Funeral (burial)

Everyone should have control over how they are memorialized and how their remains are handled after their death. Generations ago, this was less of an issue. There were simply fewer options, and families tended to have similar values. Everyone knew and understood that Grandma’s funeral would be in the church where the family had attended for years, and that arrangements would be handled by the local funeral director with an obituary in the local paper.

Now, there are an almost dizzying array of options. Burial or cremation, or donate the body to science? Standard casket or green burial? Which funeral home? Religious service or not? Funeral now, or “celebration of life” at some later date? Flowers in honor of the deceased, or donations to a favorite charity? Which charity? Should there be an obituary published and, if so, where, and what should it say?

These decisions can be a burden on a grieving family, especially if they are not sure what the deceased would have wanted or if survivors disagree about the decedent’s wishes. There are also situations in which surviving family members intentionally override the wishes of the person who has died—for instance, having a religious funeral for an avowed atheist, or denying the deceased burial rituals in their chosen faith.

How Can You Ensure Your Wishes are Carried Out?

The best way to make sure your last wishes are honored is simply to make sure they are known. In New Mexico, you can give authority to plan your funeral to the personal representative you name in your last will and testament. If you communicate your wishes to your chosen personal representative before your death, they will be better able to carry those wishes out and give you the funeral or memorial and burial that you want.

There’s only one problem with this plan, and it’s a big one. Funeral arrangements are typically made before anyone looks for the deceased person’s will. So if the personal representative you chose was a close friend who shares and respects your values, it is still possible that your closest relatives could make your arrangements without knowing (or caring) that you’ve designated someone else to do so.

It is always advisable to let those closest to you know your funeral wishes, preferably in writing so there is no dispute. However, if you suspect your family may not abide by your wishes, there are some things you can do to make it more likely that they will respect your preferences. One of these is pre-arranging your funeral.

Why You Should Consider Pre-Arranging Your Funeral

The topic for this blog was, unfortunately, prompted by a real-life situation. An acquaintance had converted to a religion not shared by her family members. She had been in ill health for some time, and when she died, her family decided to cremate her. The woman’s priest went to the family and explained that their religion did not permit cremation; he asked to be allowed to perform a funeral service according to the religion’s traditions and to have the woman buried. The family declined, and there was nothing further that the priest could do.

It’s possible that the family, which was of limited means, was motivated in part by financial considerations; cremation typically costs about a third of what a funeral and burial cost. Had the woman pre-arranged her funeral and prepaid the expenses, it seems unlikely that her family would have insisted on ignoring her wishes and paying their own money for something different.

Even if you believe your family would respect the wishes you have expressed, there are other good reasons to pre-plan and pre-pay for your funeral. Doing so lifts a great burden from your grieving family. They don’t have to wonder or argue about what you would have wanted; you’ve spared them those decisions. And they don’t have to worry about how to pay for it, since you already have. Even if your family is financially able to bear your funeral expenses, they will be grateful that they don’t have to.

How to Pre-Arrange Your Funeral in New Mexico

In New Mexico, you can plan and pay for your funeral through a contract called a pre-need funeral plan or prearranged funeral plan. Sellers of these plans must be licensed by the state and handle any prepaid funds as a fiduciary, which means they are obligated not to mishandle the money you have paid for your funeral.

Of course, you must provide your pre-planning information to someone you trust so that they will be able to contact your chosen service provider when the time comes. Ideally, that will be a close family member who would ordinarily have authority to make your arrangements, such as a spouse, child, parent, or sibling.

While you are thinking about pre-planning your funeral, you should also think about some of your other wishes, such as what end-of-life care you would want and who you would want to make medical decisions for you if you become unable to make them for yourself. Advance directives such as these are an important part of your estate plan.

To learn more about making sure your wishes are respected both at and after the end of your life, contact The Law Offices of Dana M. Kyle, P.A. to schedule a consultation.

Categories: Estate Planning