Unlike Halloween, funeral arrangements shouldn’t be a spooky mysterious process. If your wishes are not specified in writing, how will your family and friends know your ideal ultimate resting place? To avoid confusion and added stress in a time of grief and mourning, as much of the desired funeral and burial/cremation arrangements should be made in advance, while you are also planning for other dispositions in your estate plan.

Most states specifically allow individuals to make pre-death arrangements for funerals and disposition of bodily remains. In this form of written direction, individuals may choose a person or persons who will be responsible for carrying out their last wishes. In Virginia, for example, any person may designate, in a signed and notarized written document, an individual to be responsible for his funeral and disposition of remains, including cremation, internment, entombment, or memorialization upon death. In Virginia, and in many other places, this gives the named person priority over all others potentially legally entitled to make such arrangements, and allows them to decide the best course of action based on an individual’s written wishes. This step is of particular importance for those final arrangements that are unique and have not been previously discussed with, or agreed to by, family and friends.

Prepaid funeral contracts may also be drafted with local funeral homes and other providers. Many funeral homes will allow individuals to exactly specify their preference for religious ceremonies, viewings, and compliance with applicable or desirable cultural traditions. These directions may also include burial and headstone placements, as well as preference pertaining to public and private funerals. Implementing any one or more of these available pre-death planning strategies, especially a combination of them, can take the guess work out of your funeral and burial/cremation arrangements. Most importantly, such planning can allow your loved ones to mourn with less stress and anxiety, and allow you to rest in peace.

*Not admitted to the practice of law.