Clarify Final Wishes with Simple Legal Form

Clarify Final Wishes with Simple Legal Form

Occasionally, there are family disputes about who should make the final decision regarding arrangements for a loved one. Most commonly we see this when there are multiple adult children, or siblings, with differing opinions about funeral arrangements. The way the funeral laws are written in Texas, if there are multiple people who quality as the legal next of kin, they all have the same right to make decisions (unless otherwise specified in writing).

Many people believe the oldest child or sibling has greater authority but this is simply not the case. As a result, when there is a disagreement, the cremation process is delayed until the disputing next of kin can agree with how to proceed.

In Texas, people who want to control this part of their own final arrangements can help prevent such disputes by completing an Appointment of Agent form. This hidden gem, buried in legislation, is a small part of the Texas Health and Safety Code (Section 711.002) that can be a big help in clarifying final wishes.

So who should use it? Actually anyone could benefit from it but especially those who:

  • Don’t have a legal next of kin that can be easily reached.
  • Have several relatives who qualify as legal next of kin and may not agree on what to do.
  • Prefer to have someone other than their legal next of kin make final arrangements.
  • Want to ensure the person of their choosing will be making their arrangements.

Texas residents who complete the Appointment of Agent form can simply name a person who will become the legal decision maker on how to handle the disposition of remains. Of course, it is important to choose someone you trust, who knows you well and is willing handle the arrangements. That person automatically moves to the top of the priority list established by Texas law for making decisions about what to do with remains. Here’s the order:

  1. a person designated in a written instrument (as detailed above);
  2. the decedent’s surviving spouse;
  3. any one of the decedent’s surviving adult children;
  4. either one of the decedent’s surviving parents;
  5. any one of the decedent’s surviving adult siblings; or
  6. any adult person in the next degree of kinship in the order named by law to inherit the estate of the decedent.

See Tex. Health & Safe. Code § 711.002(a)

California has a similar listing of who has the “right of disposition” (authority to make arrangements) which can be found in the legislation section of the California Cemetery and Funeral Bureau’s website. The statue outlining the order is in Section 7100. One advantage many California residents have is it’s common for a California Power of Attorney form to include instructions specifying final wishes the Texas one does not. However, individuals should never assume it is covered and should verify their wishes are in writing. The other important step is to make sure a copy can be immediately accessed and provided to the funeral home or cremation service provider.

Remember, this is a prioritized list so those at the top legally “outrank” those further down the list. In Texas, the Appointment of Agent form must be signed and notarized before the death occurs. A copy should be given to the designated decision maker and to your cremation service provider. For your convenience, aCremation provides an Texas Appointment of Agent form on this web site, ready to be filled in, printed and notarized. If you have any questions, be sure to contact aCremation toll-free at 877-353-3626 and one of our professional staff members will assist you.

Mary Beth Barnett

Mary Beth Barnett is a licensed Funeral Director in Texas. Her involvement with aCremation began before our doors opened – researching how we could provide affordable cremations and still keep quality and service standards high. Through this process, she developed a passion for working with families who are going through one of the most stressful phases of life – planning for death.

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