In certain circumstances, it can be unclear who is liable for making all the decisions regarding a funeral. Sometimes the person responsible might even find themselves being contested.
Planning a loved one’s funeral means that you will have to make a lot of big decisions. Some examples of these decisions are deciding:
- If you are going to cremate or bury the dead;
- If you are going to have a conventional memorial service or a funeral service;
- Whether or not to observe any religious customs; and/or
- Where the funeral service and the burial are going to take place.
But what goes down when you mix in your family’s personal tastes and drama? In instances of religious differences, cultural differences, physical location, or family separation due to divorce or dislike, things could get very ugly.
If the Deceased Left Instructions
In the event that the deceased appointed a particular person to make the decisions concerning their funeral, then that choice has to be accepted. This choice might have been noted in a Living Will, a Last Will and Testament, or some other notarized or legal document, like:
- Appointment of Agent to Control Disposition of Remains;
- Disposition Authorization Affidavit; or
- Authorization for Final Disposition.
If the Deceased Did Not Leave Instructions
In the event that the person who has passed on did not indicate any decisions they made in this matter that are legally recognized, then the choice becomes the responsibility of the nearest living relative. In the event that the next living relative is not available or is incapable of making choices of this magnitude, then the legal hierarchy of next-of-kin will be followed until a person who is capable of handling the situation can be located.
In the State of California, the next-of-kin who has agreed to handle the arrangements will be required to sign a form stating that they hold the statutory right to manage the disposal of the remains. This document is usually referred to as either an “At-Need Written Statement of Person Having the Right to Control Disposition” or an “Affidavit or Authorization to Control Disposition.”
Hierarchy of Next of Kin
To be able to be considered as the closest living relative in these circumstances, the chosen family member has to be older than 18 years of age. The family members that are listed on the hierarchy normally apply to natural, half, step, and adopted family members, uniformly:
- Spouse/domestic partner
- Authorized guardian
- Nieces and nephews
- Grand-nieces and grand-nephews
- Aunts and uncles
- First cousins
- Great-grandchildren of Grandparents
- Second cousins
- Fiduciary (a legally appointed trustee)
In California, a good friend to whom the person who died made their preferences known could be eligible to plan the funeral if no one else is able or available.
If you find that you are still confused or have worries about who is really going to be in charges of your funeral after you die, it is strongly advised that you contact an experienced and knowledgeable will and probate attorney in California. If you would like to meet with a will and probate attorney for a free consultation regarding your case, please reach out to the team here at Levia Law Firm by calling (818) 703-1777 today.