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Can I Dictate What Happens to My Remains After I Die?

Cristin Gerczak, Esq.
September 24, 2019

Can I Dictate What Happens to My Remains After I Die?

Florida law states that the deceased person has priority in choosing the disposition of their remains after they pass away. This is accomplished by creating “written inter vivos authorizations and directions”. 

What Are Inter Vivos Authorizations and Directions?

There are a couple of options to set your intentions out in writing. 

The first is known as inter vivos authorizations and directions. It is a short document that allows you to name the person you want to make decisions regarding disposition of your remains, your agent, and to list any specific directions for them to follow, i.e. cremation, burial, or entombment. 

That is all the information that is required for this document, and the funeral home or crematorium will be able to legally abide by your instructions. 

Another option is to set out your intentions in your Last Will and Testament. A Last Will and Testament will have to go through the probate process to be administered, in order for those intentions to be followed. 

Currently, this is often the place for final disposition directions. However, this choice is flawed in isolation without the inter vivos authorizations and directions. For example, if you create an estate plan that is designed to avoid probate, then this option is less appealing.

What Happens If I Don’t Make Any Instructions?

Luckily for you or at least your loved ones, Florida law does have a list of people, in a priority order, that can make this decision if you don’t execute instructions. 

After the deceased is the surviving spouse, followed by a child over the age of 18, a parent, a sibling over the age of 18, a grandchild over the age of 18, a grandparent, or the person in the next degree of kinship. 

Why Is It Important to Put This in Writing?

Many times, the person next on this list to make decisions is not someone you would choose as your authorized agent. Or perhaps that next person on the list wouldn’t ensure your wishes for cremation or burial are followed. There could be more than one person in the next category on the list that may disagree. 

Disagreement in such a time-sensitive case will likely result in an emergency filing with the probate court and incur substantial expenses that could have been avoided with proper planning. 

By executing inter vivos directions, you’re ensuring that you make the final decision for the disposition of your remains and remove the distraction and expense of disagreements or lack of cooperation among family members that happens more frequently than you may realize.

Author: 

Cristin Gerczak, Esq.

Associate, Haimo Law

Strategic Planning With Purpose®

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