Planning for Death While Living

Aug 2021

Michigan law allows an individual 18 years and older, and of sound mind, to designate a person to make decisions about funeral arrangements and the handling, disposition, or disinterment of the client’s body after their death. The person designated is known as a “funeral representative”. If you choose not to designate a funeral representative, the right to make these decisions will most likely belong to your next-of-kin. (Which may be a good or bad thing…)

In Michigan, the priority for someone to have the legal authority to make decisions regarding the disposition of your body is as follows:

  1. If you are a service member, the person may be designated by federal law.
  2. The person you designate as your funeral representative.
  3. Your surviving spouse.
  4. Your children (over age 18).
  5. Your grandchildren (over age 18).
  6. Your parents.
  7. Your grandparents.
  8. Your siblings.

Generally, we prepare a Funeral Representative Designation document when a client wishes to be cremated, wants to make an organ donation, and/or has certain wishes for burial or a memorial service.

The Funeral Representative Designation must be in writing, dated, and signed in the presence of two signing witnesses or acknowledged before a notary public.  The funeral representative cannot be a witness.  In addition, witnesses may not be persons affiliated in any way with any facility providing care, or persons affiliated in any way with a funeral home, cemetery or crematory.

The funeral representative must be eighteen years of age and of sound mind.  Generally, one may appoint anyone to be a funeral representative.  Like the limitations of witnesses listed above, there are exceptions to funeral representatives. Persons affiliated in any way with any facility providing care, or persons affiliated in any way with a funeral home, cemetery or crematory may not be designated unless they are a spouse or relative.

We recommend a successor funeral representative be appointed as well in the event the first appointed funeral representative is not able to act.

If two or more funeral representatives are appointed to act, decisions shall be exercised as decided by a majority of the individuals who can be located after reasonable efforts.

The Michigan law provides if a person with the highest priority cannot be found, elects not to serve as the funeral representative, or fails to perform any duties within 48 hours of death, the person(s) with the next highest priority has the right to act.

The funeral representative’s power to act is only effective after death, and the power to act cannot be delegated or assigned to someone else by the funeral representative. The Michigan law provides that the funeral representative is specifically liable for ensuring payment of the costs related to the disposition of the deceased’s body.  Because of the potential liability for costs to the funeral representative, we include a specific provision in the Funeral Representative Designation that states the funeral representative is not liable for costs and that the deceased person’s trust or estate is liable for costs of funeral arrangements and disposition of the client’s body after their death.

An individual designated as a funeral representative accepts the designation as funeral representative by signing an acceptance of funeral representative, or by acting as the funeral representative.

As is true for all estate planning documents the Funeral Representative Designation may be revised or revoked if circumstances change.

Have a question about your specific circumstances? Contact us at

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