When planning your estate, consider explaining in writing your own final arrangements. If you leave your last wishes unstated, then those who settle your affairs after your death have no way to honor what you wanted. Leaving family members with no guidance can be stressful and lead to conflicts and family disharmony.
On the other hand, knowing what your loved one wants and making it happen can be therapeutic and comforting at a time of sorrow and loss.
It’s important your wishes be stated in writing. If you don’t, then family can have a difference in understanding and recollection which can lead to disputes.
The estate of automotive designer Carroll Shelby offers a sobering example of what might happen if you don’t take the proper precautions about your final arrangements. Shelby, creator of the legendary Shelby Cobra and Shelby Mustang, died in 2012. His body was still lying in a Dallas morgue weeks after his passing while his seventh wife and his children engaged in a protracted battle over his final arrangements.
After the dispute was settled, he was cremated. Disputes such as this can often times be nipped in the bud with proper planning.
Ohio recently enacted a law that makes it easy to appoint someone with the final say about final arrangements. This law was the legislature’s reaction to a high profile, hotly contested matter in Columbus, Ohio that was similar to the Shelby estate controversy.
Ohio law establishes your right to create a legal document called a Right of Disposition to appoint a Personal Representative to make final arrangements. This includes the decision of burial vs. cremation; disposition of final remains; the decision to do an autopsy; the purchase of funeral and burial merchandise and services; and more.
If you appoint a Personal Representative under your Right of Disposition, no one else can trump or supersede what that person decides. If you leave clear written instructions for the Personal Representative, then by using the Right of Disposition legal document you can rest assured that there will be no uncertainty about your final wishes and whether they will be carried out.
Other states may have similar laws. Check with a local estate planning attorney. Even if there is no law on the books like Ohio, making a formal document with specific wishes and letting your Executor or Trustee know about it and where to find it, will help eliminate the risk of family dissension later. It’s also a good idea to share your written wishes or legal document with loved ones at a stress-free time.