Last Wishes: How to Customize Your Funeral
“The trouble with quotes about death is that 99.9% of them are made by people who are still alive.” – Joshua Burns
Have you ever stopped to consider how you would want your friends and family to see you off at the end of your days?
Whether you opt for a solemn event, a lively Irish-style wake, or something completely different, it’s important that you get your last wishes out of your head and into a will, funeral plan, or advance directive, so you don’t end up with a send-off you wouldn’t have chosen. Your wishes can also be made crystal clear by telling your family what you want in advance so there are no surprises. Equally, pre-paying and pre-arranging the funeral yourself means there is less likely hood it will go any way other than how you planned.
Just Stay Inside the Lines
Whilst most designated agents will follow a deceased person’s wishes, despite some unconventional requests, they do not legally have to approve them all. The executor of a will has a duty to do what is best for beneficiaries. If the requests are in any way illegal, contrary to your state laws, financially overly onerous or impractical, the executor may overturn your last wish requests in favor of something that can be paid for by the estate or by funds set aside for funerary purposes. Just note that any deviation from a will must be done with the express permission of the heirs. Keep the requests do-able, and there is no reason you wouldn’t get the going away party you hoped for.
Some surprising funerals have been carried out without a hitch, such as was the case of Mickey Easterling of New Orleans. Ms. Easterling was a socialite who wanted to be part of the show. She asked to be arranged sitting up, dressed in an evening gown and boa, holding a cigarette and glass of bubbly for her funeral. Then there was the instance of 22-year-old David Morales Colon, who was positioned sitting on his motorcycle in jeans and sunglasses for the entirety of his three-day wake.
It should be noted that state laws differ and change, so keep up on the laws of your state. Personal preference laws for the disposal of a body are in effect in over half of US states. This means survivors are statutorily required to honor the deceased’s written wishes. In other words, they must go along with your personal preference when possible.
What they don’t Know…
Without a pre-arranged plan, such as the ones previously mentioned, your last wishes either may never be known or may be ignored by well-meaning loved ones who have opposing views.
Say you have been a lifelong atheist and you die without specifying a non-religious ceremony, you could end up with a church/temple/mosque funeral that suits your next of kin more than you. Or you always wanted to donate your body to medical science, but you don’t specify and are cremated instead. Or you wanted a massive party and got a depressing cry fest.
Avoid these pitfalls by giving specific instructions in advance and chances are that you will have the send-off you hoped for.