Many people make burial or cremation plans informally, trusting their loved ones to take care of the details after death. This works fine if you're confident your plans will be carried out. Sometimes, however, families ignore the deceased person's wishes and substitute their own, especially if they dislike the person you live with. This is possible because, in some states, only blood relatives have a say in making funeral plans.
If you're concerned about that possibility—or you just want to help your survivors by giving them some guidance during what is sure to be a hard time—you can:
• Make the practical arrangements yourself. Get a burial plot or arrange for cremation, and plan your funeral or memorial ceremony.
• Leave a letter of instruction in a place where it will be available immediately at your death. This is better than putting your instructions in your will, which may not be read for several days. Readily available instructions will be a great aid to family and friends.
"Upon my death I wish to be buried in the Green Meadow Cemetery in Lancastershire, Massachusetts, in plot number 4321B, which is reserved and paid for [or which will be paid for by my burial insurance through Carpenters Union 18]. I wish no elaborate ceremony and wish my remains to be prepared for burial by the Fraternal Brothers Burial Society under the contract that I have signed with them. Any decisions not already made, or necessitated by circumstances that I cannot now foresee, I entrust to my friend of many years, Lucinda Whitehorse.
For more information, see the Final Arrangements FAQ in the Estate Planning section of the Nolo site, Also, Nolo offers two excellent resources to help you decide on final arrangements—from burial or cremation to memorial ceremonies—and leave instructions for loved ones. Nolo's Quicken WillMaker & Trust software lets you use your computer to prepare a final arrangements letter that makes your wishes clear. Or, if you prefer to use a workbook, Get It Together, by Melanie Cullen and Shae Irving, provides a complete system to help you organize all your important paperwork and personal information, including instructions for final arrangements, for your survivors.