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Are You the Responsible Family Member? - Paul Lane Funeral Home, Inc.
Are You the Responsible Family Member?
It's unfortunate but the person making the initial call to our funeral home sometimes turns out not to be the one with the legal responsibilities of making decisions related to the care of a loved one or the financial resources to carry them out.
While they may feel that they should be the one to make these choices, the law doesn’t recognize them as such – and so their voice can become effectively silenced.
If the deceased has not expressed their wishes through a written document such as an Appointment of Agent to Control Disposition of Remains, Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, or a Last Will and Testament, where the deceased has designated an agent to fulfill their wishes; then there is a hierarchy that must be followed.
New York State now has a law that establishes the hierarchy of who can control the disposition of human remains. The order of priority set forth in Subdivision 2 of Section 4201 of the NYS Public Health Law is the following:
· Person designated in written instrument;
· Domestic Partner;
· Any Child 18 or Older;
· Either Parent;
· Any Brother or Sister 18 or Older;
· Authorized Guardian;
· Person 18 or Older now Eligible to Receive an Estate Distribution, in the following order:
o Nieces and Nephews;
o Grand-nieces and Grand-nephews;
o Aunts and Uncles;
o First Cousins;
o Great-Grandchildren of Grandparents;
o Second Cousins;
o Close friend or other relative who is reasonably familiar with the decedent’s wishes,
including his or her religious or moral beliefs, when no one higher on the list is available,
willing, or competent to act;
o Public administrator (or the same official in a county not having a public administrator); or,
anyone willing to act on behalf of the decedent who completes the “At-Need Written
The person signing the form to control disposition must also have no knowledge that the decedent executed a will containing directions for the disposition of his/her remains, or designated an agent by executing a written instrument pursuant to Section 4201 of the Public Health Law.
They must also attest that they are not the person who (1) at the time of the decedent’s death, was the subject of an order of protection issued to protect the decedent; or (2) has been arrested or charged with any crime allegedly causally related to the death of the decedent. (NOTE: State law automatically prohibits any such person from having or exercising control of the disposition of the deceased’s remains.)
The person designated as the responsible party, whoever they may be, needs to be present to make decisions, and sign documents. If you are unclear as to who is the responsible person in planning a funeral for your loved one, call us.
The Critical Importance of Designating a Representative
If your loved one has yet to specify who they wish to be in control of their funeral service planning, and they are clear-headed enough to do so, now is the perfect time to take care of that task.
This is especially important if they think their relatives will not respect their funeral plans, or if they are on bad terms with them; do not know where they are, or do not have any living relatives.
And, you might mention that appointing a specific person to arrange their funeral who is not a family member, but is deeply trusted, is a good way to ensure that their final wishes are carried out.
They can designate their choice by completing an Advance Health Care Directive, or the easy-to-read 5 Wishes guide from Aging with Dignity. Should you have questions about doing so, call us, or speak with your family attorney.
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