Who Can Make Funeral, Burial or Cremation Arrangements in Arizona?
When a loved one dies, it is a difficult time. One of the first questions family will be asked involves decisions about funeral, burial, or cremation arrangements. Between coping with grief and loss, the last thing anyone wants to deal with is uncertainty or even a dispute over planning final arrangements.
Fortunately, Arizona law has provisions for who has the power and duty to make final disposition arrangements. The following “authorizing agents” have the right to make final decisions, in successive order:
- surviving spouse, unless legally separated or there was a pending petition for divorce or legal separation
- agent under a health care power of attorney, if the document specifically gives the agent the power to make decisions regarding the disposition of remains
- adult children
- adult grandchild
- adult who exhibited “special care and concern” for you
- person acting as your “guardian of the person” at the time of death,
- any other person who has the authority to handle the disposition of your body
If there is more than one member of a category listed above, final arrangements may be made by any member of that category unless that person knows of another member of the category who objects. If there is an objection, decisions must be made by a majority of the members of the category who are reasonably available at the time. So, what if there is more than one person with priority in the same category and there is an objection, but no majority? Arizona case law has held that where there is a disagreement over disposition arrangements between the decision makers in the same category, but no majority, the individual who is going to honor and follow the decedent’s wishes should be appointed to carry out those wishes.
In addition, if the person in charge is aware of the decedent’s wishes regarding the disposition of his remains, that person shall comply with those wishes if they are reasonable and do not impose an economic or emotional hardship. Arizona law permits a legally competent adult to prepare and sign a written statement directing the cremation or other legal disposition of the adult’s own remains. The statement may be in a last will and testament or in a separate document. If the directive is made in a separate statement, it must be signed, dated and the document shall be notarized or witnessed in writing by at least one adult who affirms that the notary or witness was present when the legally competent adult signed and dated the document and that the legally competent adult appeared to be of sound mind and free from duress at the time of execution of the document. Arizona law also allows a legally competent adult to arrange and pay in advance for a pre-need funeral, burial or cremation plan with a mortuary, cemetery or funeral home. For persons who wish to pre-plan, we strongly recommend communication with your loved ones to ensure that your wishes are followed and reduce unnecessary stress. Doing research for end-of-life arrangements, and then communicating the wishes, helps everyone involved.
If you are responsible for handling a loved one’s final disposition and estate matters, we are here to help. These tasks can often seem daunting, especially when experiencing loss and grief. We have the knowledge and experienced team you need to help you and your family get through this process. Call us at 480-922-1010 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your consultation today. We are here to help.
-Stephanie A. Bivens, Esq., CELA