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Jul 2016
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July 21, 2016

New Law Provides Greater Flexibility and Certainty in Your Funeral Arrangements


A new Michigan law (effective June 27, 2016) allows you to appoint a representative to make decisions about your funeral arrangements, the handling and disposition of your bodily remains and your final resting place.

While this may seem insignificant, under prior law, only your spouse, children or close relatives (in that order) had the legal authority to make those decisions. The law did not allow you to specifically name a person from among those individuals to make your arrangements, nor could you name someone outside of those individuals. Decisions made by a group often created tension among family members if they could not agree on post-death arrangements.

Who Can be a Funeral Representative?

The new law allows you to name anyone over the age of 18 to serve as your funeral representative (with certain restrictions) to make post-death decisions regarding your funeral and burial arrangements. This designation is not limited to family members, which means that you can name anyone, such as a close friend, significant other or pastor to carry out your final wishes. This is especially important if you do not have immediate family, if you are concerned with disagreement among family members or if you are worried your family might not carry out your wishes. The law also allows you to name a successor funeral representative in the event that the initial funeral representative is unable or unwilling to act.

How do you Designate a Funeral Representative?

Funeral representative designations must be made in writing and must be signed and dated in the presence of two witnesses or before a notary public. The designation can be made in your will, a patient advocate designation or in a separate document. Although the law allows a funeral representative designation to be made in a will, a separate document is preferred because it will be reviewed by a funeral home or crematory, and there is no need to have your entire will made public to those establishments. Further, your funeral representative may not have easy access to your will.

It is unclear whether your funeral representative will be required to follow your wishes concerning funeral arrangements as contained in the designating document. Nonetheless, having clear written instructions will assist in having your wishes carried out.

The funeral representative designation allows greater flexibility and peace of mind that your final wishes will be honored and provides less stress for your loved ones during a difficult time. If you wish to prepare a funeral representative designation, contact your attorney at Warner Norcross & Judd LLP. 

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