Should You Have a Funeral Agent?

Should You Have a Funeral Agent?

As people live longer, the possibility of outliving all family members is becoming greater. In cases such as these, an individual preplanning their funeral should consider appointing a funeral agent.

A funeral agent is a person legally designated to assume the right to control the funeral services and disposition of someone who has died. If you have no living family members who will be willing to handle your funeral arrangements upon death or if you are unsure your next of kin will honor your desired arrangements, appointing a funeral agent is a wise option.

If you fit the above description, appointing a funeral agent can take a lot of the guesswork out of handling a funeral. If you are seeking to become eligible for SSI/Medicaid and establishing an irrevocable prepaid funeral, appointing a funeral agent also makes sense. This person, who ideally would help with the preplanning process, can make sure your wishes are honored.

One way a funeral agent can be appointed is through a will or a codicil to a will. An attorney can handle adding language appointing a funeral agent to a will. The following is sample language to aid in that appointment:

Appointment of Funeral and Disposition Representative

"I hereby nominate, constitute and appoint [insert name] to serve as my Funeral and Disposition Representative, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 45:27-22. My Representative shall have the authority and power to control the arrangements for my funeral and the disposition of my remains. My Executor shall notify my Representative of this appointment, and shall advise my Representative of the financial means available to carry out the Funeral and Disposition arrangements. In the event [insert name] should predecease me or for some other reason not qualify to serve as my Funeral and Disposition Representative, then I nominate, constitute and appoint [insert name of alternate] as my Funeral and Disposition Representative.”

A New Jersey law signed by Governor Phil Murphy in July 2019 will also allow a person to appoint a funeral agent by executing a form, approved by the New Jersey Cemetery Board, designating the agent. The form, which can be found here, must be executed by the individual, two witnesses and a notary.

Who can be a funeral agent? Practically anyone. The executor of an estate can serve as an agent, but only if specifically designated in a person’s will or through the new form. Friends of the intended funeral recipient can also serve as an agent. Others that can serve are clergy members, social workers and relatives. It is important to stress, however, that your funeral director can never serve in this capacity as it would represent a conflict.

If you think appointing a funeral agent would be the right thing for you to do, you can contact your attorney and either draw up a will or amend your current will to designate the agent. You also may appoint a funeral agent through the form approved by the New Jersey Cemetery Board.

By appointing a funeral agent, you may be providing some peace of mind that your arrangements, with your agent and funeral director working together, will be handled appropriately.