FORT WAYNE — Indiana lawmakers established a way years ago to address common questions about funeral planning, wills, and how to legally document a person’s preferences for their own funeral services. The passage of Indiana’s Funeral Planning Declaration statutes remove some of the uncertainty, and perhaps some disagreements, regarding the funeral arrangement process.
The law, which went into effect July 1, 2009, provides a vehicle for any competent person 18 years of age or older to designate a family member, friend or other trusted individual as the person who is authorized to carry out funeral wishes specified in the declarant’s Funeral Planning Declaration. The full text of the law, which includes a Funeral Planning Declaration form, can be viewed at www.in.gov/legislative/ ic/code/title29/ar2/ch19.html.
A Funeral Planning Declaration could be invaluable as a means of assuring a declarant that his/her desired funeral ceremony and burial preferences will be carried out after the declarant’s death. A Catholic’s end of life worship preferences are no less important or meaningful than those undertaken during life.
The law provides that a Funeral Planning Declaration must be separate from a will, power of attorney or similar document. It is a standalone document and takes precedence over certain other documents concerning decision making on the disposition of the declarant’s body after death; the disposition of the declarant’s remains; the provision of funeral services for the declarant; religious ceremonies to be performed after the declarant’s death; the casket, urn or other merchandise necessary for the disposition of the declarant’s body after death; direction of funeral arrangements; and grave memorials. The declarant designates the individual who is authorized to carry out the declarant’s preferences on such items, or who is entrusted to make those decisions on behalf of the declarant after the declarant’s death if no preference is provided. Either way, the law presents a means to take guesswork out of who is authorized to direct the funeral planning process and gives a declarant some level of assurance that their religious preferences will be honored after death. If the declarant has a change of heart after making a valid Funeral Planning Declaration, the document can be destroyed, rendering it invalid, and another can be executed.
A declarant’s ability to have preferences that are designated in a Funeral Planning Declaration carried out as requested could be limited by such things as the declarant’s financial resources at the time of death or contractual agreements, such as a prepaid plan with a funeral home. Consult a priest to determine the suitability of liturgy preferences. Anyone who is interested in a Funeral Planning Declaration should coordinate it with their other estate plans and talk with a priest to avoid roadblocks to having their preferences carried out after their death.
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