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So, You Thought You Had Things Just The Way You Wanted Them

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Published on July 21, 2010 with No Comments

By Daniel Moran, General Manager of Calumet Park Cemetery

 So, you sat down with your family and told them exactly how you would like your final arrangements to be handled.   You even met with a funeral director or a cemetery pre-need counselor and signed a contract defining exactly what you wanted your final goodbye to look like.  In fact, you paid for everything in full to be sure things would go as you wished.  You felt peace in your heart knowing that you were not going to burden your family with all the decisions that must be made when you pass away, nor worry about how they would pay for your funeral, since cemeteries and funeral homes traditionally require payment in full at the time of need.

Guess what! Until a recent law went into effect, your spouse or kids wouldn’t have to do anything that you planned if they didn’t want to.  It may sound crazy, but who said laws have to make sense?  To correct this flaw, a piece of legislation was passed (Indiana law IC 29-2-19) that allows for an individual to get his or her exact wishes regarding the final disposition of their mortal remains, and it supersedes even the rights of a spouse. 

The program is called The Funeral Planning Declaration.  It is a legally binding document allowing a person to direct how their body is to be disposed of at the time of their death, and what services are to be held.  It overrides the wishes of all others, including your immediate family, as it allows the designation of a third party to be your legal representative upon your demise.

This declaration should not be used if you want to allow your family to plan the funeral services that will be most meaningful to them.  However, if you want ground burial or mausoleum entombment, and they want a direct cremation with no ceremony so they can spend less and keep more money, especially if it is your money that is to be “kept”, then you may wish to consider looking into this new way to get what you want.

I personally know of a family where the wife made it absolutely clear that she did not want to be cremated.  She made her funeral plans, and was paying on them to be sure to take the burden away from the children and to be sure that she would not be cremated.  As she grew ill and was not truly capable of making decisions of this magnitude, she was, to put it politely, browbeaten into succumbing to what her husband and at least one of her kids wanted, which was direct cremation … with no service, and no permanent placement of the mortal remains. She told a friend just before passing, “They are going to cremate me.”   And they did!

Had this law existed at the time this lady made her arrangements, and had she provided a copy of the Funeral Planning Declaration to her cemetery and funeral home of choice, she would have gotten her wishes.  By using this new law, she could have prevented a lot of unnecessary pain for those family members who wanted their mother to have the funeral that she desired.

You should consider the use of this program if you do not have any immediate family to carry out funeral planning and disposition arrangements, or if you have strong feelings as to what should happen upon your death, or if your wishes are likely to be objected to by your family, or if you anticipate conflict between family members as to what should be done.      

This information is not meant to replace competent legal advice.  Contact your attorney if you have any questions or concerns about the Funeral Planning Declaration before you find yourself in a situation that is not headed the way you would like for your end-of-life decisions.

If you have already made your cemetery and funeral arrangements, you can still make use of this law to ensure you get exactly what you arranged.  If you haven’t yet made your arrangements, clip this article and take it with you when you do decide to pre-arrange.. 

If you would like more information regarding this new law, contact the author by email to dmoran@calumetparkcemetery.com, or call 769-8803 to set an appointment to meet with a family service counselor who will answer your questions regarding this very important phase of your life.

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