Making Funeral Arrangements in Missouri

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In Missouri, 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 Missouri?

Missouri 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:

  • your attorney-in-fact, if you grant this power in a durable power of attorney
  • your surviving spouse
  • any surviving child
  • any surviving parent
  • any surviving sibling
  • your next of kin
  • any person or friend who assumes financial responsibility
  • the county coroner or medical examiner.

(Missouri Statutes § 194.119.2.)

If there is more than one member of a class -- for example, you have many children or several siblings -- a funeral director may rely on the instructions of any one of them, provided the director has no knowledge that another member of the class objects. (Missouri Statutes § 194.119.7.)

Making a durable power of attorney for health care. To avoid any confusion about who should carry out your final plans, it’s best to make a durable power of attorney for health care and give your attorney-in-fact explicit permission to carry out your wishes.

For more information about making a durable power of attorney for health care in Missouri, see Missouri Living Wills and Durable Powers of Attorney for Health Care .

To make a Missouri durable power of attorney for health care that appoints your attorney-in-fact to carry out your final plans, you can use Nolo’s Quicken WillMaker Plus software.

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 Missouri?

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 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, Missouri Statutes § 436.430), 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. If you like, you can attach detailed final wishes to your durable power of attorney for health care.

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 Missouri durable power of attorney for health care.
  • 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, 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 Missouri, including consumer protection information, see the website of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Greater Kansas City.

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 Missouri, see Burial and Cremation Laws in Missouri.

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