In Connecticut, you may name the person who will carry out your funeral arrangements. You can also provide detailed instructions about your final wishes and set aside funds to cover your funeral expenses, including the costs of burial or cremation.
Connecticut law determines who can make decisions about funerals and body disposition -- that is, burial or cremation -- after someone dies. This right and responsibility goes to the following people, in order:
If there is more than one person in a class named above -- for example, you have more than one child or many siblings -- decisions will be made by a majority of the members of that class who can be located and who want to participate within ten days after your death. (Connecticut Statutes § 45a-318(e).)
Making your own document. To make a valid document appointing someone to carry out your final wishes, you need only write down what you want, then sign and date your document in front of two witnesses. (Connecticut Statutes § 45a-318(a) and (g).)
Making an advance directive. One smart way to name your representative is to complete a Connecticut advance health care directive naming a health care representative. In your document, you can give your health care representative explicit power to carry out your final arrangements. (You must make this authority clear in your advance directive; otherwise your agent’s decision-making power ends upon your death.) This saves the trouble of making separate documents for health care decisions and final wishes.
For information about making a power of attorney, see Connecticut Living Wills and Appointment of Health Care Representative.
If you are in the military. You may name the person who will carry out your final wishes in the Record of Emergency Data provided by the Department of Defense.
The most recent statistics from the National Funeral Directors Association put the average cost of a funeral at more than $7,000. This figure doesn’t cover many common expenses such as cemetery costs, markers, flowers, or obituaries. For many people, after a house and a car, funeral goods and services are the most expensive thing they’ll ever buy. It’s wise to make a plan to pay for these costs.
You have two basic options for covering your funeral expenses, including the costs of burial or cremation. You can:
If you don’t do either of these things, your survivors must cover the costs of your funeral arrangements.
Paying in advance. If you want to pay for your funeral arrangements ahead of time, make sure you’re dealing with a reputable funeral establishment and clearly document any plans you make, so your survivors can easily carry them out. Though the law requires providers of funeral goods and services to carefully manage your funds, abuses do happen. What’s more, if a funeral establishment goes out of business, your careful planning may be lost.
For a checklist of your rights under Connecticut law, visit the website of the Connecticut Attorney General.
Setting aside funds. The safest and easiest way to cover the costs of your final arrangements is to estimate costs and tuck away the funds in an easily accessible, interest-earning bank account. You can designate a beneficiary who can claim the funds immediately after your death. Make sure the beneficiary understands what the money is for, however, and that you trust him or her completely, because the beneficiary is under no legal obligation to use the funds for your final arrangements.
For more information about setting up an account to cover the costs of your final arrangements, see Payable-on-Death (POD) Accounts: The Basics.
Beyond simply naming a representative to carry out your final plans, letting your survivors know what kind of funeral arrangements you want -- including your wishes for ceremonies and whether you want to be buried or cremated -- will save them the difficulty of making these decisions during an emotional and stressful time. You can include your detailed final wishes with the document that names your representative.
In Connecticut, no one with custody of your body -- for example, a funeral director -- may knowingly make final arrangements that go against your written, signed, and witnessed wishes, unless a probate court approves. In addition, no one can challenge a funeral director’s decision to carry out the instructions in your final arrangements document if the funeral director’s reliance on the validity of your document was “reasonable and warranted under the circumstances.” (Connecticut Statutes § 45a-318(b) and (c).)
Nolo offers several tools to help you document your wishes for final arrangements. Each one walks you step-by-step through the process, so you won’t miss any important issues.
While there are many ways to write down your wishes for final arrangements and make them clear, here’s a firm piece of advice to follow: Don’t put them in your will. Your will may not be read until weeks after your death -- far too late to help your survivors. It’s better to prepare a separate document.
Store your final arrangements paperwork in a safe place and be sure your loved ones know where to look when the time comes. It may be helpful to make copies and tell them where to find the originals when they’re needed. If you do so, be sure to keep a list of everyone with copies, in case you need to get them back and change them later.
To find the rules covering funeral arrangements, including consumer protection information, visit the website of the Connecticut Judicial Branch Law Libraries.
To learn more about making your final arrangements, see Getting Your Affairs in Order on Nolo.com.
For details on the rules that control disposing of remains in Connecticut, see Burial and Cremation Laws in Connecticut.