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Funeral arrangements and disposition of remains, P.1

What will happen to your remains once you die? What do you want for your funeral? These are questions that some may find uncomfortable to think about, but which should be answered when doing estate planning. In approaching these topics, you may either choose to formalize your wishes or to simply keep them informal. In either case, you should have an idea of what is involved in both of these options.

Under New Jersey law, a deceased person's funeral and the disposition of their remains are to be in accordance with the instructions given to the person appointed in their will to control those tasks. The person selected for this task does not have to be the one in charge of settling the estate, the executor, and the funeral and disposition of remains can be addressed independently of probate.

Oftentimes, when a person is appointed in a will to see to the deceased's funeral and the disposition of their remains, there is a also a separate letter (sometimes called a Letter of Instruction) providing more details as to their wishes. In terms of how specific these letters are, it is up to each individual. They can be as simple or as detailed as is desired.

If there is no person appointed in a person's will to see to their disposition and funeral arrangements, state statutes will determine to whom that task falls. Under New Jersey Law, the surviving spouse or civil union partner will have priority in making those decisions, unless the deceased had a temporary or permanent restraining order against their surviving spouse or civil union partner, or if significant spouse of civil union partner was charged with intentionally killing the deceased. Those situations aside, they will priority in taking charge of those tasks.

In our next post, we'll continue looking at this issue, picking up with a list of who has priority in making these decisions if the surviving spouse of significant other chooses not to or is unable to do so.

Source: nj.com, "Your Legal Corner: Funerals and the disposition of remains," Victoria M. Dalton, Oct 2011.

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