Many Wills provide funeral and burial instructions. The Personal Representative must be careful about making funeral arrangements, even if specified in a Will, if it appears that the Decedent might be insolvent or without funds with which to pay for the funeral. In this case only, reasonable arrangements should be made. However, there are other times when family members express certain wishes, and if they accept responsibility for the costs relating to their expressed wishes, then in most cases their wishes should be followed. There is an order of preference to be followed in that the surviving spouse’s wishes would come before those of other family members. Funeral expenses are reimbursed to whoever pays them, so long as there are sufficient funds in the Estate and the funeral expenses are not extraordinary.
In some cases, Decedents may have made a gift of “all or any part” of their bodies to medical and/or dental research. These gifts can be made by any person of sound mind who is at least 18 years of age. However, a gift of an entire body is not considered valid unless expressed in an executed document written at least 15 days prior to death. A Decedent may also have the right to make a gift of a body part or parts to surviving family members.
If the Personal Representative and family cannot agree on the funeral arrangements and there is any type of a dispute regarding the disposition of the Decedent’s body, then it is advisable that legal counsel be consulted as soon as possible.