In Georgia, 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.
Who Has the Right to Make Funeral Arrangements in Georgia?
Georgia 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:
- a health care agent you named in an advance directive for health care
- an individual you appointed in a written affidavit
- your surviving spouse
- your adult child, or a majority of your adult children if more than one
- your parents
- your siblings, or a majority if more than one
- your grandparents, or a majority if more than one
- your guardian
- the personal representative of your estate
- your next of kin
- a public officer, or
- any other person who is willing to assume the responsibility.
Making an advance directive for health care. To give the job to someone you choose, it’s best to make a Georgia advance directive for health care granting your health care agent explicit permission to carry out your final wishes. This option allows you to prepare a single document ensuring that both your health care decisions and your final arrangements are in the hands of the person you want.
For more information about making an advance directive in Georgia, see Georgia Living Wills and Advance Directives for Health Care.
If you decide not to make an advance directive and instead prepare a written affidavit naming your representative, the document must include special language required by Georgia law. You must also date the document and sign it in front of a notary public. (To read the law and find the necessary language, see Georgia Code § 31-21-7(b)(2)(B).)
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.
Who Pays for Funeral Costs in Georgia?
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:
- pay in advance, or
- leave enough money for your survivors to pay the bills.
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 (see Georgia Code § 10-14-17), abuses do happen. What’s more, if a funeral establishment goes out of business, your careful planning may be lost.
For more information, see The Prepaid Funeral and Its Perils.
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.
Writing Down Your Funeral Plans
Beyond simply naming someone 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 naming your agent or representative.
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.
- Quicken WillMaker Plus can create a final arrangements document for you. The software program asks you questions about your wishes and then produces a detailed document you can give to others. You can use the program to make your advance health care directive, too.
- Get It Together: Organize Your Records So Your Family Won't Have To, by Melanie Cullen with Shae Irving, is a workbook that provides a complete system for documenting information for your executor and family members, including your wishes for final arrangements.
- Nolo’s Final Arrangements Kit includes all the basic forms and instructions you need to document your final wishes.
Where to Store Your Funeral Plans
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 in Georgia, including consumer protection information, see A Guide to Funeral Homes, Crematories and Cemeteries, published by the Georgia Department of Human ServicesDivision of Aging Services.
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 Georgia, see Burial and Cremation Laws in Georgia.