Last Rights: New Law Creates Flexibility in Planning Funerals
With a firm belief that good planning makes events go smoothly, Martin wanted to determine and document how he wanted the last major event of his life to take place -- his funeral.
As he expected to celebrate his 89th birthday, Martin felt some urgency in getting everything planned, including the casket and funeral garments, the visitation, service at the church and music, luncheon and graveside ceremony.
When his wife passed away more than 5 years before, Martin took care of all the details for her funeral so that it would be an elegant affair that celebrated her life. If he had not taken control of the situation then, the funeral very likely would have been chaotic because their two adult children could not seem to agree and cooperate on important details.
Concerned that his funeral would suffer such a fate, Martin consulted with his family attorney to understand his options to appoint someone other than his two children to plan the event. His attorney advised him that he was in luck: Michigan recently had passed MCL 700.3206, which allows any adult in the state of Michigan to appoint another adult to plan his or her funeral.
Before the new law was passed, next of kin had the rights to plan one's funeral in the following order: spouse, adult children, adult grandchildren, parents, siblings. Martin had outlived his wife, parents and siblings, so it was clear the planning would fall to his two children. One of his children very likely would insist on an ostentatious ceremony that may be an embarrassment, while the other would be minimalist to the point of the funeral being perfunctory.
The law in Michigan regarding the appointment of a Funeral Representative was changed for other considerations as well. There were occasions where long-time girlfriends or boyfriends were not allowed to plan their loved one's funeral. In those cases, the adult children would have priority if the decedent was divorced. And in second marriages, the new spouse would have priority over adult children. Attempts to get around the former law with appointment of Durable Power of Attorney or appointment in a Will proved not to be effective.
The new law offers flexibility as it allows any adult in the state of Michigan to appoint another adult to plan his or her funeral through a Will, a Durable Power of Attorney-Healthcare, or on a stand-alone document. If a Funeral Representative is so appointed, this person has first priority to plan the funeral.
Martin’s attorney reminded him that the new law does not make stipulations on how to plan the funeral, but does make a specific requirement that the Funeral Representative must secure payment for funeral and/or burial.
After some thought, Martin asked a long-time friend to act at Funeral Representative under the new law and prepaid the funeral and burial expenses.