In South Carolina, you may name someone to authorize the disposition of your body after your death. You may also provide detailed instructions about your final wishes and set aside funds to cover your funeral expenses, including the costs of cremation or burial.
Who Has the Right to Make Funeral Arrangements in South Carolina?
South Carolina law determines who can direct the cremation of a person’s remains after death. This right and responsibility goes to the following people, in order:
- you, if you see a funeral services provider and complete a “cremation authorization form”
- an agent you name in a “verified and attested document”
- your spouse, unless you are legally separated
- your adult children
- your parents
- your adult siblings
- your adult grandchildren
- your grandparents
- a person appointed by a probate court as your guardian, or
- any other person authorized or under obligation by law to dispose of your body.
If there is more than one member of a class listed above – for example if you have more than one child or many siblings -- any member of that class may authorize cremation unless that person knows that another member of the class objects. If there is an objection, the decision must be made by a majority of the members of a class who are “reasonably available.” (South Carolina Code § 32-8-320(B).) To avoid delays and disputes, it is wise to name your agent in advance.
How to appoint an agent. To make a valid document naming someone to carry out your final arrangements, write down what you want, then sign and date your document in front of a notary public. Even though South Carolina law specifically addresses only decisions about cremation, you should follow these steps if you want your body to be cremated or buried -- or even if you prefer to leave that decision in the hands of your agent.
Naming your agent in a health care power of attorney. One smart way to appoint a representative is to complete a South Carolina health care power of attorney naming a health care agent. In your document, you can give your agent explicit power to carry out your final arrangements. This saves the trouble of making separate documents for health care decisions and final wishes.
You must make your agent’s post-death authority clear in your power of attorney document; otherwise your agent’s decision-making power ends when you die. Also, be sure to have your power of attorney notarized to satisfy the requirements above.
For information about making a health care power of attorney, see South Carolina Living Wills and Health Care Powers of Attorney.
To make a South Carolina health care power of attorney that appoints your health care agent to carry out your final plans, you can use Nolo’s Quicken WillMaker Plus software.
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 South Carolina?
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 Title 32, Chapter 7 of the South Carolina Code), 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 an agent, 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 instructions with the document that names your agent.
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 what you want and produces a detailed document you can give to others. You can also use the program to make your South Carolina health care power of attorney naming your health care agent to oversee your plans.
- 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 all the laws covering funeral arrangements in South Carolina, including information on filing a complaint against a funeral services provider, visit the website of the South Carolina Board of Funeral Service.
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 South Carolina, see Burial and Cremation Laws in South Carolina.