Why do funeral homes need consent?

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Q. My brother has end-stage cancer. His friend says he is my brother’s sole heir. The friend requested a signature from all the siblings for the funeral home, saying he needed it to arrange the funeral. If he’s the sole heir, why does the funeral home need consent?
— Brother

A. We’re sorry to hear about your brother.

What happens with funeral planning depends on your brother’s will and state law.

New Jersey has a statute that sets forth the hierarchy of those who have the right to control the funeral arrangements and the disposition of the body of a deceased individual, said Shirley Whitenack, an estate planning attorney with Schenck, Price, Smith & King in Florham Park.

This comes into play if a funeral agent has not been designated in the deceased person’s will, she said.

“The hierarchy set forth in the statute is in the following order: funeral agent designated in the will, the spouse or civil union partner, majority of surviving children over the age of 18 the deceased person’s parents, the majority of surviving siblings over the age of 18, and other relatives according to the degree of their relationship to the deceased person,” she said.

A beneficiary can control the funeral arrangements only if they are also included in the hierarchy set forth in the statute, Whitenack said.

Email your questions to moc.p1558514946leHye1558514946noMJN1558514946@ksA1558514946.

This story was originally published on April 22, 2019.

NJMoneyHelp.com presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.