It is interesting that people create wills routinely to dispose of their property after death, but seldom consider documenting their desires for burial, cremation or other ceremonial issues. When prepaid burial plans are not purchased, next of kin usually make those decisions. But what about the blended family situation where there are children, step-children and later in life spouses? Each person needs to ask who he or she would want making those arrangements.
Often a later in life marriage is entered with an understanding between the parties that each will be buried beside their first spouse. Usually that presents no problem, but sometimes over time the wishes of individual members of the blended family change. Documentation of individual choices is useful in those situations to prevent disputes among the surviving family members.
Alabama law allows the inclusion of burial or cremation wishes in a last will and testament, but such arrangements have limited practical value when considering the immediate need to make arrangements for disposition. Sometimes the will is not located until weeks or months following death.
Of perhaps more use is an affidavit permitted by Alabama Code § 34-13-11 which allows a person to appoint an adult to be the authorizing agent who can control the location and manner of disposition. That document will control unless a person dies while on active duty in any branch of the United States Armed Forces, United States Reserve Forces, or National Guard, whereupon the person listed on the emergency data for the Department of Defense will have authority to control the disposition of remains.
While I do not normally provide form documents, the affidavit authorized under Code of Alabama § 34-13-11 is very simple and straightforward, and I am providing here a copy of the statutory form:
Affidavit Concerning Disposition of my Remains
State of Alabama
County of _______________
I, (name) ____________________ designate (person selected) __________________ to control the disposition of my remains upon my death. I
__ have not
attached specific directions concerning the disposition of my remains. If specific directions are attached, the designee shall substantially comply with those directions, provided the directions are lawful and there are sufficient resources in my estate to carry out those directions.
Subscribed and sworn to before me this __ day of the month of ___________ in the year _______.
____________________________ (signature of person creating the affidavit)
______________________________ (signature of notary public)”
Without an affidavit the following surviving people, listed in priority, will have the authority to make burial arrangement:
- The spouse,
- A majority of the decedent’s children,
- The decedent’s parents,
- A majority of the decedent’s siblings,
- The decedent’s grandparents,
- The decedent’s legal guardian at the time of his or her death,
- The Personal Representative (executor) of the decedent’s estate,
- The next of kin for inheritance purposes,
- A public officer, administrator, or employee of the government; or
- Any person willing to assume the responsibility, in the absence of all of the people listed above.
It is not a bad idea to think about what you want, who you want to make arrangements and prepare an Affidavit Concerning Disposition of Remains as part of estate planning. You can add additional instructions to the affidavit while designating an agent and rest assured your wishes will be followed.