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Estate planning may include instructions for final arrangements

In Florida and elsewhere, funeral arrangements and similar details are not usually included in an individual's will. Such matters are secondary to the legal issues contained in the will, and it can be problematic to include such information. Furthermore, the will is often not obtained and read until after the funeral so that it is counterproductive in estate planning to use the will to convey information about funeral, religious services or burial instructions.

Some states provide for a Funeral Planning Declaration to be executed by the testator. It appoints a trusted person to carry out the final arrangements and includes all the necessary details. The FPD is similar in purpose to a simple letter of instructions to the person who will take care of the final arrangements. Such letters have been used for many years in estate planning.

These tools conveniently allow the testator to prearrange everything and to leave a written memo that can be handed to the person who will do the final arrangements. A copy can also be stored with the will and another copy sent to the executor. In this way, it can be assured that the desired steps will be taken in accord with the decedent's wishes.

Notably, the power of attorney that is nearly always included in an estate plan also can play a role in the last arrangements. The power of attorney often contains a power that survives the maker's death, which is the power to dispose of the decedent's remains. The POA may also perform the additional functions of an FDP if it is drafted for that purpose.

Where these legal instruments are not prepared, most states will provide some statutory guidance or rules on who has the legal authority for final arrangements. However, that order of designation may be contrary to what the decedent would have wanted. For that reason, not taking the time to consult with one's estate planning attorney to prepare the necessary documents pursuant to Florida law and procedure can bring about a wasteful and time-consuming outcome.

Source: nwitimes.com, "Estate Planning: Who makes final arrangements?", Christopher Yugo, May 13, 2018

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