Although a morbid topic, choosing an agent to control your funeral and disposition of your remains is an important decision to be made in your Will. In New Jersey, if you do not select an agent to control your funeral and disposition of your remains, the following people will have the legal authority to do so:
- Surviving spouse;
- Majority of surviving adult children;
- Surviving parent(s);
- Majority of brothers and sisters;
- Other next of kin based on their legal relationship to you.
While this may mirror what you want, in enough cases, it does not. In many families, for example, children do not get along or one child has not been in touch with the family in decades.
In one recent case decided in New Jersey (In the Matter of the Estate of Travers ), the decedent was unmarried and did not have children. His parents survived him but were divorced and did not agree on how to dispose of his remains. In this case, the Court decided which parent it felt was best able to articulate what the decedent would have wanted.
Any time the court is involved, however, costs escalate, issues take longer to resolve, and what you may have wanted to happen might not happen.
If you want to help your family avoid a battle about your funeral and disposition of your remains, you should appoint an agent in your Will.