Funeral and burial preplanning should be a part of every estate plan, but some web pages promoting estate planning can be misleading or impractical. The estate planning page sponsored by Lawyers.com suggests that funeral arrangement preferences can be incorporated into a will or health care power of attorney to alleviate the financial and emotional burdens suffered by survivors. That advice, though, does not reflect the realities faced by the surviving family members. Funeral arrangement decisions must be made within days, or even hours of the death. A will may not be accessible for days, and then opening the probate estate to authorize the executor to care out the funeral arrangement, may take weeks. The funeral home may also seek immediate payment, or be unwilling to file with the probate estate without additional compensation.
Our preferences about funerals and burials change, and it can become expensive to visit an attorney to amend the will when preference changes.
A power of attorney is a more practical estate planning approach, but the document would need to be coupled with a right of sepulcher that sets out the funeral and burial instructions. The power of attorney form authorizes the agent to direct the principal’s funeral, but would not set out the funeral and burial arrangements. Also, the power of attorney does not authorize the agent to pay the funeral bill out of the deceased’s assets. As we have explained in a prior post, the agent’s authority to spend the principal’s funds terminates on death. So, the estate plan will have to consider a funding vehicle such as a final expense trust.