You have options when it comes to how you want your remains handled and where you want to be laid to rest. The critical issue is choosing exactly what happens to your remains beforehand, so another party does not have to make this choice for you after your death.

An Albany and New York estate planning lawyer at Pierro, Connor & Strauss can help you execute an Appointment of Agent to Control Disposition of Remains so that your wishes are clearly stated. Also known as the DORA, this document is an important part of an estate plan.

What is a Disposition of Remains?

A disposition of remains is what you want done with your body after your passing. Traditional burial and cremation are the most common choices, but some people may opt for a natural, “green” burial.

In this document, you can include any ceremonies you would like included at your funeral or memorial service, with a religious or non-religious aspect. You can alternatively state your preference for no ceremony at all.

If you choose cremation, discuss what you want done with your ashes. If you want your friends and family to place them in an urn or throw a party to celebrate your life; the choices are personal. Feel free to be as specific or general as you want. You can even include the music you want played at your funeral or party if that is important to you.

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The Importance of Having Disposition of Remains

Having a disposition of remains allows you to control what happens to your physical body after your passing. Without the document, your next of kin decides what to do. For instance, a widow or widower who has remarried may indicate they wish to be interred beside their late spouse. Or, perhaps they prefer burial beside their current spouse. By making your wishes known legally, you can spare family members a very upsetting conflict, which could easily escalate into litigation. You might not please everyone with your decision, but they will at least know it is what you wanted.

Historically, funeral directors were caught in the middle of these deeply personal and highly charged family disputes. According to the New York State Funeral Directors Association, Inc., the law regarding the disposition of remains made their job easier. The Appointment of an Agent to Control Disposition of Remains protects funeral directors who follow a decedent’s written instructions against liability.

How to Choose an Agent

So long as your choice is a mentally competent person of at least 18 years of age, you are free to choose anyone you want to fulfill this important role. While family members are often appointed, close friends are also permitted.

The most important decision is to name someone you trust to carry out your wishes. You can name alternates to the primary agent if your first choice is unable to serve. Make sure to confirm that your primary or alternate agents are willing to perform this task. If you or they later decide to pass on the responsibility, you can always revoke or update your designated agent.

The only exception is that you may not appoint the funeral director whom you are paying to handle the arrangements.

Requirements to Complete your Appointment of Agent Form

Appointing an agent is very straightforward but the guidance of an estate planning attorney is advised. You will fill out an Appointment of Agent to Control Disposition of Remains form and sign it in the presence of at least two witnesses over the age of 18. The designation becomes effective upon your death.

Who Must Sign?

The agent and alternates must sign and date the form to validate it. If there are multiple agents, they do not have to sign the document at the same time. This is a document where a notary public is not necessary.

Who Pays for the Disposition of Remains?

Your agent’s authority is limited to the disposition of remains and does not extend to healthcare or any financial issues outside that limited scope. Your estate will typically pay for expenses related to the funeral and burial. However, in the case that your estate cannot pay for these expenses, your agent may be responsible for those bills. This is why it is important to make sure your estate plan includes provisions to cover these costs.

How Pierro, Connor & Strauss Can Help

An estate plan means empowering yourself to control your affairs after you die to the greatest extent possible. Appointing an agent for the disposition of your remains is just a simple part of that process. Through careful estate planning, an estate planning lawyer at Pierro Law works to ensure all your wishes are carried out.

Pierro, Connor & Strauss, LLC serves clients throughout New York including Manhattan, Long Island, Westchester, Hudson, Albany and the Capital Region to Lake Placid. Our attorneys are licensed to practice law in New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Florida. Contact us for a free consultation. We look forward to serving all your estate planning needs.

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