If you are a resident of New Jersey and have not appointed a funeral agent through a Last Will & Testament, a state statute (N.J.S.A. 45:27-22) dictates who may make your funeral and burial arrangements after you have passed away. Even if you have pre-arranged your funeral and burial prior to your death, the individual with standing to be your agent pursuant to the statute may change those arrangements.
Pursuant to the statute, if you do not name a funeral agent in your Last Will & Testament, the following individuals, listed in order of priority, have standing to be your funeral agent:
- Your surviving spouse or surviving civil union or domestic partner (unless a temporary or permanent restraining order is in effect against said surviving spouse, civil union or domestic partner at the time of your death);
- A majority of your surviving children;
- Your surviving parents;
- A majority of your brothers and sisters; or,
- Your other next of kin according to the degree of consanguinity (closest blood relation which is not listed above).
In most cases, making such an appointment in your Will may not seem important, especially if you are married or have children, as your spouse and children will probably know how you wish your funeral to be handled and how you prefer your remains be laid to rest. However, under certain circumstances, someone who does not know your wishes or someone you may not get along with could potentially control your funeral and your remains. For instance, if you have not appointed a funeral agent and you pass away in the middle of a divorce, your spouse has the legal right to dispose of your remains in the manner he or she chooses, even if you have been separated for some time. Obviously, this is a terrible scenario, yet it happens often because a funeral agent was not appointed.
If you wish to control with certainty who will make your final funeral and burial arrangements in accordance with your wishes, contact Jason D. Briel, Esq. to schedule an appointment for further information.