There are a lot of legalities involved with death. When someone passes there are rules and regulations for disposition of the body. A last will and testament can be used by a person to spell out exactly what they want to have happen to their body after death. But not everyone has one of those.
However, a person may have signed a Legal Rights to Disposition form. There’s a lot of confusion around exactly what this form is and when it applies. And if you’re the spouse or the legal next of kin you may be surprised to find you might not be in control of the disposition decisions if this form exists.
Legal Rights to Disposition Forms Explained
The general gist of a Legal Rights to Disposition form is it names the person (agent) who will oversee the disposition of your body. In states like Texas, written documentation appointing a person with the rights to disposition overrides even next of kin status. Legally, whoever is named on the Rights to Disposition documents is in charge of the body disposition.
That said, you can also specify the type of disposition you want within the document. Then the appointee is simply carrying out your directives.
People use Legal Rights to Disposition forms so that it’s crystal clear who should be handling the body disposition. It could be that you have numerous close loved ones that might have differing views. Or you’ve discussed your wishes with a loved one that you know will respect them to a tee.
Regardless of the reasoning, when a Legal Rights to Disposition exists whatever it contains takes precedence. That’s why one of the first questions the funeral director will ask is if there’s a Legal Rights to Disposition form or appointment of agent documentation. Because if so, the agent needs to be the one signing off on the disposition.
RELATED READING: 5 Ways to Document End-of-Life Wishes
Where the Confusion Comes in With Rights to Disposition
Without a Legal Rights to Disposition form, the disposition decision making is automatically given to the legal next of kin. That’s why there’s confusion surrounding Legal Rights to Disposition forms. A spouse or the next of kin mistakenly thinks this is what a funeral home is referring to when the director inquires about the form.
To be fair, estimates are that around 60% of U.S. adults don’t have a will or any sort of estate planning documents. So the majority of the time the spouse or next of kin steps into the role of decision maker.
The funeral home needs to know who is legally able to decide the type of body disposition that’s used. In many cases if there isn’t a Legal Rights to Disposition form it is the spouse (not common law) or next of kin who’s named.
So now you know, Legal Rights to Disposition forms aren’t the same as next of kin status that gives a person legal rights to disposition. The naming conventions can be confusing, but the thing to remember is that any written and signed documentation that signifies who should handle the body disposition overrides everything else.
At Green Cremation Texas we can walk you through all of the forms that are required. You can give us a call, text or email day or night any day of the week if you have questions.
View, download, and print our Appointment of Agent for Rights to Disposition. Be sure to get it notarized as well.