By Joseph P. Buttiglieri

A new law became effective in Michigan on June 27, 2016 that allows an individual to name a funeral representative. A funeral representative is a person with the authority to make decisions regarding final arrangements and the resting place of the decedent after death. This appears to be a beneficial update to existing Michigan Law and will provide peace of mind that the person of your choosing will take care of your final wishes.

Until this change in law, there was sometimes confusion over who could make decisions regarding funeral arrangements and disposition of your body. The law provided that your spouse, children or close relatives had legal authority to make those decisions and that you could not name a certain representative from among those persons. This could create problems between family members after death. The new law allows you to name the person that will be your funeral representative, even if that person is not related to you.

The designation of the funeral representative can be a part of a will, a power of attorney or a separate document. It may be best to make this a separate document since the primary purpose of the directive is to give it to the funeral director or facility that will be used to make disposition of your body. If the directive is part of a power of attorney or will, the entire document would have to be submitted to the institution. By making the designation part of a separate document, only that document need be presented.

There is a new order of priority as to who has legal authority to make decisions regarding final arrangements created by the statue. They are as follows:

  1. If you were a service member, the person who may be designated by Federal law.
  2. The person you designate as your funeral representative.  
  3. Your surviving spouse.
  4. Your children over age 18.
  5. Your grandchildren over age 18.
  6. Your parents.
  7. Your grandparents.
  8. Your siblings.

In order to name a funeral representative you must be over 18 years old and be competent. The person you name as funeral representative must also be over 18 years of age and be competent. The only restrictions of persons not allowed to serve as a funeral representative, unless the person is also your spouse or close relative, are:

  1. A licensed health professional;
  2. An employee or volunteer of a health or veteran’s facility who provided care during your final moments;
  3. An officer or employer of a funeral establishment that will provide services for you;
  4. An officer or employer of a cemetery where you will be interred;
  5. An officer or employee of a crematory where you will be cremated and, finally;
  6. The law provides that anyone who has been criminally charged with your intentional murder is not allowed to serve as your funeral representative.

Just as you may change or revoke your will or trust, you can change or revoke your designation of a funeral representative. This is done in the same manner that you designated the representative, which requires a notary or two witnesses to the written designation. The law further provides that upon divorce there is an automatic revocation of a designation of a funeral representative that names a former spouse.

In view of this new law, we recommend that our clients review their estate plans and consider contacting us to prepare a designation of funeral representative of your choice.

For further information regarding these matters, please contact Mr. Buttiglieri at 248.740.5696 or via email .