Many of our Estate Planning clients come to us with the understanding that they are in need of certain basic documents to ensure that in the event of their incapacity or death, subsequent decisions related to their healthcare or their personal property will be handled in a manner that is in accordance with their wishes. Typically these documents would include a Healthcare Proxy, Durable Power of Attorney, Living Will and Last Will and Testament. Within these documents, one can appoint a trusted individual to serve as their agent to make important decisions about their healthcare or finances. Similarly, a person can select an Executor to ensure that their assets are properly distributed, after they are gone.
However, few clients also know that they can appoint a Final Disposition Agent, who would be responsible to ensure that their burial remains are handled in accordance with their wishes. The Agent can be family member, friend or funeral director who is legally empowered to ensure that the details of the funeral and burial are carried out as specifically instructed.
The right to appoint a Final Disposition Agent, can be found within the relevant provisions of the New York Public Health Law §4201. Although sometimes unappreciated, the option to appoint a person to handle funeral arrangements and their burial can be discussed with clients as a part of their overall estate plan.
It is not surprising to learn that some clients can have very strongly held preferences about what to do with their remains which are not in harmony with the cultural or religious beliefs of their family members. On example would be a client who wants to be cremated, while her family is insistent on a burial. In such cases, the appointment of a Final Disposition Agent may be an important consideration.
As a result, the selection of a Final Disposition Agent may be an important conversation to have with your attorney when considering your various estate planning options.
By Paul R. Varriale