You went through all of the phases of managing your estate and you feel confident that everything is in order. In your final years, you have a serious disagreement with your oldest son and disinherit him from your estate. Your spouse passed away years before, and your verbal wishes that were expressed to your friends was that you would be buried next to your spouse when you pass away. When the time comes to make your funeral arrangements, your son decides to have you cremated and your ashes spread out in the backyard of the family home.
It doesn't sound fair or right, does it? But there is one important step you forgot to go through that almost every other person forgets during estate planning. You forgot to put your burial wishes in writing. When the time comes to decide how you will be buried, the probate court will look to your will first and then to your family tree second. If your will makes no mention of it, then the family tree takes priority.
In the majority of states, funeral arrangements are part of the regular process that probate follows, unless you have something else in writing in your will. That means that the first person who has the responsibility of planning your funeral is your spouse and then, if your spouse has passed on, the responsibility goes to your children. Disinheriting someone from your will does not take them out of line to plan your funeral.
By not specifying your funeral arrangements and naming the person who will take care of it in your will, you can be setting up your family for quite a legal battle. The person who you name as your estate administrator is not automatically the person who would make your funeral arrangements. A disinherited child could step in and allocate money for funeral arrangements if the estate administrator is not your spouse.
If you have several children, then the entire process can get very ugly. If your spouse is not alive to handle the arrangements on your behalf and all of your children have different ideas on what to do for your funeral, then the whole thing could erupt into a court battle that could go on for a while. In the meantime, your final wishes are not being honored and may not be.
Your estate planner might not ever bring up the idea of your funeral arrangements, or they might bring it up and you would not consider it important. Making sure that your final wishes on everything are followed precisely is an extremely important part of estate planning, and that includes funeral arrangement.
Talk to your estate planner or attorney about putting a section in your will that outlines exactly who will be responsible for your funeral arrangements and what you would like done. The person you designate as your funeral planner will have to take money from your estate to plan your funeral, so it is always a good idea to let your estate administrator know what is going on. When your funeral plans are in writing in your will, then all of your final wishes are sure to be followed by whomever you have put in charge of the arrangements.