Planning and Paying for a Funeral

In most states, you can decide who will be in charge of carrying out your funeral arrangements. If you don’t appoint someone, state law gives this job to your closest relatives. This may be exactly what you want, but if you’d like to name a specific person—or if you fear that family members may disagree about the best course of action after your death—you should leave a document clearly naming your choice.

Some states allow you to leave a simple signed statement indicating who should make your final arrangements, while others require a more formal document signed by witnesses or a notary. If your state allows it (and nearly all states do), it’s wise to appoint someone to take care of your funeral arrangements in a health care directive. When you use a health care directive, you gather all of your end-of-life wishes in one place, ensuring your wishes are respected and making the path clearer for your loved ones.

In addition to deciding who will carry out your wishes, it’s also a good idea to leave instructions about what kind of funeral arrangements you'd like, including whether you want to be buried or cremated. You can also leave your preferences for other details, such as whether you would like a memorial ceremony, where it should be, and what kind of music to play.

Finally, think about paying for your final arrangements. You can either pay for your plans before you die, or you can set aside money for your survivors to use for this purpose. If you don’t do either of these things, and there’s not enough money in your estate (the assets you leave behind) to pay for funeral goods and services, your survivors must cover the costs.

No matter what you include in your instructions, make it easy for your survivors to find them.   You can either share copies of your final arrangement documents during your life, or just tell your loved ones where to find them after your death.

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