When Creating Estate Planning Documents Should I Include My Funeral Wishes?

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As an estate planning attorney, I get this question often.  Most people like the idea of being able to express their wishes whether it be for burial or cremation, choice of burial site, the type of casket or urn, the style of tombstone or cemetery marker, and the type of funeral rite and music.

Though you can express your funeral wishes in a will, most estate planning attorneys recommend against this for the simple reason that wills are rarely located and read prior to the funeral. Rather it’s best to provide verbal or written instructions to your executor and loved ones in advance while you are still alive.  If written, this need not be a formal document, though I would suggest you sign and date it.

In addition to sharing your wishes in advance, a number of estate attorneys also recommend a degree of pre-planning.  Most funeral homes and religious institutions are happy to help you plan in advance.  Often these conversations can help you think of things you might have never considered otherwise.

Lastly, please be aware that even if you do formally include your funeral wishes in your estate planning documents, these wishes are not formally binding.  The reason for this is that your body is not considered property under the law and therefore your executor is not legally bound to carry out your stated wishes.

Do you have more questions about estate planning? Contact us, and let’s discuss them.