Making Funeral Arrangements in Kentucky

It's always a good idea to write down detailed instructions about your final wishes and set aside funds to cover your funeral expenses, including the costs of burial or cremation. In addition, Kentucky allows you to make a document called a "funeral planning declaration" to name a trusted person to carry out your funeral arrangements. 

Who Has the Right to Make Funeral Arrangements in Kentucky?

Kentucky law determines who can make decisions about the disposition of your body by cremation. This right and responsibility goes to the following people, in order:

  • a representative (called your "designee") that you name in a declaration form made before your death
  • your surviving spouse
  • your adult children
  • your parents
  • your grandchildren
  • your siblings
  • your next of kin, or
  • any other person willing to act for you who has a valid prepaid funeral plan setting out your arrangements, after attempting to contact anyone on the list above.

(Kentucky Revised Statutes § 367.93117.)

Making a declaration form. To make a valid document appointing someone to carry out your final wishes, you must write down what you want in a dated form and sign the document in front two witnesses. You must also have your signature acknowledged by a notary public. Neither of your witnesses may be:

  • a person who signed the declaration for you, if you were unable to sign it yourself
  • your parent, spouse, or child
  • the person you designate as your representative under the form, or
  • a person who is entitled to any part of your estate by will or under state law.

Unless related to you by birth, marriage, or adoption, the person you name to carry out your wishes (your designee) may not be:

  • a provider of funeral or cemetery services
  • responsible for any aspect of the disposition of your remains, or
  • associated with any entity that is responsible for providing funeral or cemetery services or disposing of your remains.

(Kentucky Revised Statutes § 367.93103.)

Where to get a declaration form. The Funeral Consumers Alliance provides a free Designation of Agent for Funeral Arrangements form that you can use to name your designee.

If you’re 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 Kentucky?

The average cost of a funeral is more than $7,000, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. 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 smart 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 to 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, for example, Kentucky Revised Statutes § 367.934), 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 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 written declaration that names your 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 attach to your declaration form or give to your loved ones.
  • 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.

Learn More

To find out more about rules covering funeral arrangements in Kentucky, along with information on filing a complaint against a funeral services provider, see the website of the Kentucky Board of Embalmers & Funeral Directors.

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 Kentucky, see Burial and Cremation Laws in Kentucky.

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