According to a 2007 AARP survey, only 23% of people over the age of 50 had prepaid at least a portion of funeral or burial expenses for themselves or someone else. For many people, the act of prepaying such expenses is viewed as the utmost token of planning ahead and reducing anxiety for next-of-kin. Even when funerals are paid in advance, many decisions still need to be made. What kind of flowers were Mom’s favorites? Did Dad want to be cremated? Where should we hold the service?
When someone passes away, family members are often left with these and other considerations. Unless you have executed a document known in Wisconsin as an Authorization for Final Disposition, these decisions will be made by your closest living heir. For a married individual, the person serving in that role would be the spouse. If a decedent doesn’t leave a surviving spouse but is, alternatively, survived by two children, for example, those two children must come to an agreement on all decisions. Clearly, this has the potential to lead to problems. Even where the decision-making authority for burial, funerals, and other arrangements is left only to one person, a lot of pressure falls on the shoulders of that individual to speculate as to what the decedent’s wishes were.
By executing an Authorization for Final Disposition, you have the ability to designate someone to make funeral arrangements on your behalf after you pass away. Furthermore, you can provide details on decisions relating to disposition (cremation or burial), make arrangements for viewing, specify religious observances to be followed, and provide preferences on a graveside service, among other things.
By taking the time to prepare this document during your lifetime, you can be assured that your wishes are spelled out and won’t be left to guessing. At the same time, you are providing loved ones with some peace of mind during a difficult time by assuring them that they are following your wishes.
If you are interested in learning more about this document or wish to speak to an attorney about creating an Authorization for Final Disposition, please contact the Appleton estate planning attorneys at Sigman Janssen Sewall Pitz & Burkham today.