Many clients wonder who is responsible for planning their funeral, selecting burial or cremation, and making other arrangements after their death. Some clients ask what happens if family members disagree about these matters.
In Wisconsin, there is a default law that dictates who has the authority to make these decisions after your death. The default law provides that the following individuals, in order of priority, have the authority so long as the individual is at least age 18 and competent:
- Your spouse
- Your children
- Your parents
- Your siblings
- Your next of kin under Wisconsin law
- The legal guardian of your person if one was appointed during your life
If there is more than one person with the same priority, they must make decisions by majority vote. For example, if you have three children, two of them must agree. If there are two children and they do not agree, the Probate Court will appoint a representative to make these decisions. The Probate Court also will appoint a representative to make decisions if there is nobody who has authority pursuant to the default law.
You can modify the default law by using a document called an “Authorization for Final Disposition.” In the document, you may designate a representative to make arrangements after your death. You also may designate one or more successor representatives if the representative you designated is unable to act for any reason. These designations take precedence over the default law.
In the Authorization for Final Disposition, you also may provide special directions and instructions to your representative. For example, you may include instructions for last rites and religious services; arrangements for viewing; burial, cremation, or donation of your body; and other arrangements.
If you change your mind about who you designated as your representative or any of the instructions provided in the Authorization for Final Disposition after you sign it, you may revoke or replace the Authorization for Final Disposition at any time.
The content in the following blog posts is based upon the state of the law at the time of its original publication. As legal developments change quickly, the content in these blog posts may not remain accurate as laws change over time. None of the information contained in these publications is intended as legal advice or opinion relative to specific matters, facts, situations, or issues. You should not act upon the information in these blog posts without discussing your specific situation with legal counsel.
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