Dealing with personal remains in a will

Sometimes a person doing a will decides to specify their funeral wishes and what they want to have done with their personal remains after they have died. While it may be a good idea to plan for your funeral and burial (or cremation) in your will, there are some practical realities that should be kept in mind.


Your will may not be reviewed until after your funeral and burial

Because the will only takes effect after a person has died, it is often reviewed by loved ones only after a person has died. Sometimes family members will even wait until a person has had their funeral and been buried. Since a cremation can’t be undone, and a burial (usually) can’t be undone, and since funerals are usually only held once, it’s probably a good idea to let your loved ones know your wishes regarding your remains and your funeral outside of your will as well as in your will.


Funeral expenses can be significant

The Egyptian pharaohs had massive pyramids built to house their remains. Assuming you don’t have the wealth and political power of an Egyptian pharaoh, you should opt for something less grand. The costs of your funeral will be covered by your estate. Ideally, your funeral costs should be a small fraction of what’s left in your estate at the time of your death. Your estate will also have to cover your debts and taxes, and ideally will have something left over for your beneficiaries.


Your funeral and the treatment of your remains should be meaningful to your family

This may sound strange, but your funeral isn’t really about you. It’s about your family. It’s meant to help them cope with losing you. With that in mind, don’t plan your funeral as if it’s meant to pump up your ego. It’s not about you; you'll be dead. It’s about them. As such, be respectful of the people who will mourn your loss by being respectful of their time and money. If your wishes are too extreme, you may find that the people actually planning your funeral (your executor and/or your next of kin) may end up disregarding your wishes altogether.


Weninger Zhang

an Association of Independent Law Practices

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