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Who has authority to make funeral arrangements?

This question comes up when someone passes away in a variety of circumstances, let's look at some scenarios, all are governed by MCL 700.3206:

18 years of age or older, unmarried - An individual 18 years of age or older who is of sound mind can designate a funeral representative in writing before they pass away. This should be written, dated and signed by the person, preferably in front of a notary and witnesses. If they have not designated someone, the order of priority is: children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, siblings, other descendant, per MCL 700.3206(3).

Married Individual - If a person is married, their spouse will have priority to make funeral arrangements.

Service Member - Most service members will have indicated in paperwork who is to act as their representative as part of their service paperwork.

Child, under 18 - the child's legal parents can decide. Beware that only a "legal" parent can make this decision, if a parent's rights have not been perfected, they may not have decision making authority.

Who pays for the funeral? A person who has the rights and powers to be the funeral representative must ensure payment for the costs of the funeral. It's very important NOT to sign funeral paperwork if you do not intend paying these costs. It is not uncommon for many people to sign to be jointly responsible for burial costs and to be sued, even when another family member promises to pay. Ask your loved one about insurance coverage they may have, who the beneficiary is and who should be responsible to pay for their final expenses.

More things to know:

  • An individual who has been criminally charged with the intentional killing of the decedent (deceased) is taken off the priority list or ability to serve.

  • If an individual appointed to serve as the funeral representative but affirmatively declined to exercise his or her right or failed to exercise his or her right within 48 hours after receiving notification of the decedent's death, the individual does not have the right to make a decision about the disinterment of the decedent's body or possession of the decedent's cremated remains.

  • If more than one person has the rights listed above and they are NOT able to agree on who will be in charge, a petition will need to be filed with the Court to decide.

  • Who gets the ashes of a cremated person? Click here

Long story short, make sure you have your wishes documented properly by visiting an attorney for estate planning! Attorney Allison Greenlee Korr handles cases in Kalamazoo, Battle Creek and all surrounding counties, call today for a consultation. 269-381-4471

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