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Should You Include Burial Plans in Your Will?

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. | Last updated on

This post was updated on March 30, 2022

Besides divvying up your estate to your beneficiaries, there are several other things to think about when executing a will.

One consideration is whether to include funeral and burial instructions for your executor in your will. Just like distributing your assets, you may think that different family members have different ideas about how to best remember you. While including a burial plan in your will may seem like a good idea, it may not carry out your wishes exactly the way you want because your body isn't considered "property" for estate planning purposes.

So what can you do to convey your burial plan preferences?

Burial Plans in Wills

Although it's not against the law to include your burial plans in a will, it may be futile. One reason is that settling the estate and probate proceedings usually don't happen until after the funeral. So if your only funeral instructions are in the will, then your loved ones may not be aware of your funeral wishes until after it's already too late.

Another reason for not including your burial plan in a will is because your body can't be part of your estate since it's not considered "property" under the law. Because your body won't be under your estate's control, your executor may not be able to carry out your burial wishes.

How to Convey Your Preferences

If you decide not to include your burial preferences in the will, there are several alternative methods to convey your wishes to your loved ones.

Talk to Your Loved Ones

Share your burial plans with friends and family, so they know beforehand what you want. Although you may be trying to alleviate your loved ones from the financial burden of paying for a funeral, try to avoid pre-paid funeral plans. If you change your mind later or if the funeral home goes out of business, you probably won't get your money back.

Create a "Final Arrangements" Document

This is a separate, written document from your will covering a wide range of issues. In this document, you can discuss your wishes for burial or cremation, location of your burial, casket choice, choice of tombstone or cemetery marker, and anything related to your final resting place.

While this is not a legally binding document, you should sign and date the document and maybe have someone witness the signing. You can also do this at the same time you create your last will and testament (you've got that done, right?). You can then share copies with your attorney, your executor, and your family.

Planning Ahead of Time Is the Best Plan

Although it may be difficult or scary to think about what your burial plans will be, it's best to lay out your plans ahead of time. While state law will determine who gets to decide on funeral arrangements, there always exists the possibility of a familial dispute. Clearly stating your wishes while you are still around can go a long way toward resolving any issues before they arise.

An estate planning attorney near you can help you figure out the best ways for having your loved ones fulfill your wishes.

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