Unlike most other states, Kentucky does not have a comprehensive law allowing you to name the person who will carry out your funeral arrangements. The state’s law speaks only to procedures that must be followed if you want your body to be cremated. But that doesn’t mean you should avoid writing down your wishes if you want something else.
It is always better to write down your directions -- and name the person you’d like to oversee them -- so your survivors know what you want. You can also aside funds to be sure your funeral expenses are covered, including costs of burial or cremation.
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:
- you, if you make a “preneed cremation authorization”
- your surviving spouse
- your adult children
- your parents
- your grandchildren
- your siblings
- your next of kin, or
- a court judge.
Unfortunately, even if you make a preneed cremation authorization with a licensed cremation services provider, the law says your next of kin can object to your wishes, leaving the ultimate decision to court order. (Kentucky Revised Statutes § 367.97527.)
Even though Kentucky law is confusing, the best thing you can do is leave detailed, written instructions about the kind of body disposition you want -- whether that’s cremation or burial -- and name a representative to carry out your wishes. This document will offer clear guidance to your survivors. If a dispute later arises about your final arrangements, your own directions should carry great weight.
One smart way to name a representative to carry out your final wishes is to make an advance directive for health care. In your document, you can give your health care surrogate explicit power to carry out your final arrangements. (You must make this authority clear in your advance directive document; otherwise your surrogate’s decision-making power ends upon your death.) This saves the trouble of making separate documents for health care decisions and final wishes.
To make a Kentucky advance directive that appoints your health care surrogate to oversee your final plans, you can use Nolo’s Quicken WillMaker Plus software.
For more information about making an advance directive in Kentucky, see Kentucky Living Wills and Advance Directives.
If you’re in the military. Note that, 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 Kentucky?
The most recent statistics from the National Funeral Directors Association put the average cost of a funeral at $6,560. 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
Letting your survivors know what kind of funeral arrangements you envision -- 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 instructions with the document that names the person you chose to carry out your plans.
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. As mentioned above, you can also use this program to make your Kansas advance directive for health care decisions.
- 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 out more about rules covering funeral arrangements in Kansas, 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.