State by State: Assigning an Agent to Control Disposition

State by State: Assigning an Agent to Control Disposition

Even if there is no statutory obligation in your state for survivors to honor specific written after deathcare instructions, it is better to have your wishes in writing than not at all. Courts routinely support all but the most outrageous wishes.

The power to name a designated agent for body disposition is honored in all states. If you are estranged from your next-of-kin or were never married to your significant other, the designated agent law allows you to name someone other than a legal spouse or next of kin. Assigning an “agent”, “representative”, or “appointed person” can be useful when one individual is more inclined to follow your wishes than another, or to prevent conflict between family members of equal kinship. 

Another reason for designating an agent is when circumstances change and it becomes  appropriate to change funeral plans, too. One woman’s father lived so long that none of his friends were left to come to a viewing. A public viewing for one person–just for her–didn’t make sense. Or perhaps you planned on body donation to a medical school in Idaho but died while on a trip to New York. Should your estate pay for shipping your body back to Idaho, or would you trust a person you assigned to make appropriate alternative arrangements?

IMPORTANT — Your designated agent is not obligated in any state to carry out your wishes if they’re highly impractical, illegal, or financially burdensome. It’s very important for you and your agent to understand how much your wishes will cost, and to plan accordingly. You should not expect your designated agent to pay for a costly funeral if you don’t set money aside for that expense.
Last Word of Advice — Many States allow you to place your funeral designations in your will. However a will usually isn’t read until after services are well under way or completed. So consider drawing up a short, dated document … as allowed by such and such code or statute. Date the document, have it witnessed or notarized, and make sure your survivors receive a copy.

Alabama.  In 2011 the state adopted a designated agent law in Section 34-13-11, which allows you to name an “authorizing agent” of your choice to carry out funeral wishes. Alabama’s authorization affidavit form. An agent can lose that right if they don’t exercise it within two days of notification or three days of death.

Alaska.  A person may provide directions for the disposition of their remains by placing the directions in a disposition document. The directions may include, or be limited to designating, an agent to control the disposition of the person’s remains. 2022 Alaska Statute Title 13 Chapter 75 Disposition of Human Remains Sec. 13.75.010 Directions by decedent.

Arizona.  Statute 32-1365.01, as of 2023 states, “A legally competent adult may prepare a written statement directing the cremation or other lawful disposition of [their] own remains… It is not necessary to obtain the consent or concurrence of any other person”. “The document shall be notarized or witnessed”. Through 36-3221 you may grant authority to make funeral and disposition decisions to a person you assign with, either, healthcare (or durable) power of attorney. However 36-831 states that the order of “duty to control disposition” devolves first to your spouse THEN to that person you assigned with power of attorney THEN to other individual next of kin. 

Arkansas.  Arkansas allows you to specify your funeral wishes in advance. AR Code § 20-17-102 (2018) allows you to designate an agent to carry them out (or you may leave the decisions up to your designated agent). About Arkansas Code § 20-17-202(a)(3), Nolo writes, “To make a valid declaration appointing your representative, you need only write down what you want and sign your document in front of two adult witnesses or a notary.”

California.  A personal preference law (a designated agent law), is found in California Health and Safety Code 7100.1 There is no official form but the code describes how this assignment should be written.

Colorado.  Since 2010 Colorado has a personal preference and a designated agent law. Colorado Statute Title C.R.S. 15-19-104 (scroll down to pages 501-509) gives a decedent the right to make his own legally binding preferences known in a written document. And C.R.S. 15-19-106 (pg 505) details assigning the right to control disposition. Here’s a formatted form to assign an agent.

Connecticut.  As of 2005, Connecticut citizens have the right to declare their own wishes for the disposition of their body and may appoint an agent to carry out those directions. Public Act 05-197 of CT law which includes a form.

D.C.  Residents have the right to designate an agent to make decisions about the disposition of the body. Residents may also make written directions for the disposition of their body that supersede any other party’s wishes. These rights can be found in the DC Code, Division 1, Subsection 3-413 at the DC government’s website 

Delaware.  There is a combined personal preference and designated agent law in Title 12, Chapter 2, subsections 262 to 265 of the Delaware Code. A declarant may delegate discretion over ceremonial and disposition arrangements. Next to inherit that right falls to 2) surviving spouse; then 3) personal representative or administrator of your estate; 4) a majority of children; 5) parents; 6) a majority of siblings; 7) next of kin; 8) any person willing to take on the responsibility; 9) a person appointed by the probate court.

Florida.   In FL statute 497.005 (43)(a) there is wording to grant a “legally authorized person” when written inter vivos authorizations and directions are provided by the decedent. Inter vivos means directions you gave while alive that set forth the funeral and disposition arrangements of the person signing the document. Florida law concerning division of cremated remains.

Georgia. Georgia law allows you to appoint an agent to direct the disposition of your remains within the state’s Durable Health Care Power of Attorney form in Title 31 Chapter 36 where it briefly states that the authorization, “will continue beyond your death if anatomical gift, autopsy, or disposition of remains is authorized”.

Hawaii.  Since 2013 a person may provide written directions for the location, manner, and conditions of disposition of their remains in…by any written document signed by the person and notarized. Priority of right is described in Section 531B-4. Here is a form in the code called written instrument to control disposition of remains from Section 531B-5.

Idaho.  Idaho law allows you to write up a document naming a person to carry out your funeral wishes, so long as the document is “acknowledged in the same manner as required for instruments conveying real property. . .” Or the person you name as your Power of Attorney for Healthcare can control your disposition arrangements. You may also specifically deny your agent that right within that document. Find the entire order of who inherits the right in Title 54-1142. You may also download the Idaho Power of Attorney and Living Will form.

Illinois.  As of 2006 Illinois citizens can declare their wishes and designate an agent to carry them out (or to make decisions if no specific instructions are left). The law allowing this is found in chapter 755 of Illinois Statutes. Form wording was added to that section in 2015.

Indiana.  As of July 2009, you may fill out a Funeral Planning Declaration that allows you to specify your wishes and to appoint an agent who has the legal authority to carry them out. kindly hosts that form. Also section Indiana Code 30-5-5-16(b7) states that a health care power of attorney gives the “attorney in fact” the right to “make plans for the disposition of the principal’s body. Note in, a person named in your Funeral Planning Declaration has legal priority over an agent named in your durable power of attorney for health care  (30-5-10-4c) when it comes to the disposition of your dead body.

Iowa.  144c.5 Final Disposition Act became effective in 2008. It gives you the right to name an agent (form) to make all arrangements for the disposition of your body. NOTE: you MUST attach the form to a Durable Health Care Power of Attorney for it to be effective.

Kansas. The provisions of K.S.A. 65-904 and 65-1734 cover most situations. If a family member or friend claims the body within 72 hours of death per K.S.A. 65-904, then the body is delivered to that person or agent. The order of right falls first to your agent for health care decisions, 2nd spouse, 3rd any adult child who confirms in writing the notification of all other adult children….7th your personal representative. Kansas has a designated agent law 65-1734, updated in 2000. 

Kentucky.  In 2016 Kentucky adopted a law in Chapter 367.93117  allowing the right to go first to a person named as the designee, defined in 367.93101 as an individual designated and directed by the terms of the declaration to: (a) Carry out the funeral plan of the declarant; or (b) Make any arrangements concerning the disposition of the declarant’s remains, services, merchandise, or ceremonies. In  367.97527 you can even authorize your own cremation prior to death. 367.93109 also relieves service providers from any liability for following the expressed wishes of an individual. 

Louisiana.  Wishes of the deceased will prevail if written and notarized. For Authorizing cremation 37-876. A simple 2016 form for assigning an agent.

Maine. You may designate an agent for body disposition as well as your wishes in part 5 of Maine’s advance directives form updated in 2023. You can find this right in Title 22, §2843-A, no. 2 of Maine Statutes.

Maryland.  The state’s Advance Directives forms now include the option to name an agent to carry out your funeral wishes. The after death directives are on pgs 15-18 of this official Maryland booklet updated in 2022.

Massachusetts.  General Law, Chapter 190B 3-701 states that a “personal representative”, or if none, an “executor” named in the will may carry out written instructions of the decedent relating to the decedent’s body, funeral and burial arrangements. However, Licensure 239 CMR 3.09(c) explains to Funeral Directors that if the decedent entered a pre-need contract that is still in force then that shall control the nature of the funeral goods and services to be provided. Otherwise, the right to control the disposition of a body in Massachusetts devolves along the usual next-of-kin line.

Michigan. Since 2016 Section 700.3206 of Michigan law allows you to designate “a funeral representative” to have the right and power to make decisions about funeral arrangements and the handling, disposition, or disinterment of a decedent’s body. That includes cremation authorization and “the right to possess cremated remains of the decedent.” A funeral representative designation “may be included in the declarant’s will, patient advocate designation, or other writing” and signed by two witnesses or a notary.

Minnesota. The state has a personal preference and designated agent law last revised in 2010. Statute 149A.80 allows you to put your directions for disposition in writing, and/or appoint a person in a written instrument to carry them out, or to make decisions for you. You may also use an advanced health care directive for this purpose.

Mississippi.  As of 2013 § 73-11-58, by completion of a written instrument the person designated by the decedent as authorized to direct disposition is the first person authorized to do so. Then the right devolves in typical priority. “A person who does not exercise his or her right to dispose of the decedent’s body …within five (5) days of notification or ten (10) days from the date of the death, whichever is earlier, shall be deemed to have waived his or her right to authorize disposition. 

Missouri.  As of 2023 Missouri Revised Statutes Section 194.119 states that the “right of sepulcher” goes first to an attorney in fact designated in a durable power of attorney wherein the deceased specifically granted the right of sepulcher. In Missouri, If a surviving child is less than eighteen years of age and has a legal or natural guardian, such child shall not be disqualified on the basis of the child’s age and such child’s guardian, shall be entitled to serve in the place of the child. Also interesting is if a person with superior claim is notified by a person with inferior claim that they desire to exercise the right of sepulcher, they have 48 hrs to object or they waive their right. 

Montana.  The state adopted a designated agent law 37-19-904 amended in 2011, including suggested wording form. The priority of right of disposition is first, a person designated by decedent and must be notarized. Then descends to each next of kin, but when there are multiple of equals, the majority must agree, so it’s better to assign one.

Nebraska. Written or oral wishes of the deceased regarding disposition must be honored. In 2003, Nebraska also added a designated agent provision click here to download the form.

Nevada. Nevada Revised Statutes 451.024, last amended in 2017, gives citizens the right to designate an agent with authority to order the burial or cremation of their  remains in a validly executed will or durable power of attorney or may execute an affidavit before a notary public in substantially the following form: which is short and sweet in subsection 9.

New Hampshire.  There is a designated agent law in Chapter 290. Read all about it on this excellent consumer site. Your designated agent may not receive remuneration for fulfilling the role. If the person you designate refuses “custody and control”, it belongs to your next of kin. If the next of kin is 2 or more persons with the same relationship to the subject, the majority of the next of kin have custody and control. If the next of kin cannot, by majority vote, make a decision regarding the subject’s remains, the court shall make the decision so it’s better to designate an individual to be your agent.

New Mexico.  Any adult may authorize their own cremation in this form prior to death under statute 24-12A-1. Although you may appoint a personal representative to carry out your funeral wishes it must be placed within your will under statute 45-3-701 B. So be sure your personal rep has a copy or it may not be seen until it’s too late.

New Jersey.  New Jersey N.J.S.A. 45:27-22 allows you to appoint a designated agent to direct the disposition of your remains. Here is the form provided by the NJ cemetery Board.  

New York. Section 4201 of the Public Health Law allows you to designate an agent to dispose of your remains. The law includes a statutory form. Here is an overall excellent resource that includes that form at the end.

North Carolina. An irrevocable pre-need funeral arrangement may not be altered. Since 2007 you can assign an “authorizing agent” in a Health Care Power of Attorney form. On page 6 it reads, that authority continues “until my death, except if I authorize my health care agent to exercise my rights with respect to anatomical gifts, autopsy, or disposition of my remains. This authority will continue after my death to the extent necessary to exercise that authority.” You may read more options from this 2013 NC Board of Funeral Service Document. Or read what NC law says G.S. 90-210.124.

North Dakota.  Chapter 23-06 -Care and Custody of the Dead states, “The duty of final disposition of the body of a deceased individual devolves upon the following individual in the order of priority: a. Any legally competent adult given the duty of final disposition by the deceased individual in a statement conforming with section 23-06-31; …“The written statement must be signed and dated by the legally competent adult and may be part of the legally competent adult’s will.”

Ohio.  Effective in 2006, Ohio citizens may designate anyone they wish to make funeral, cremation, or anatomical donations of their bodies after death. This right can be found in 2108.70 of the Ohio Code. Here’s an Ohio Designated Agent Form using the law’s wording It must be signed by a notary or two witnesses not related to you. In OH the next of kin equally inherit the right, all collectively must agree, whereas other states only require majority.

Oklahoma.  There is a combined personal preference and designated agent law. The law can be found in §21-1151, “Any person has the right to direct the manner in which his or her body shall be disposed of after death …by executing a sworn affidavit stating the assignment of the right and the name of the person or persons to whom the right has been assigned. Any person who knowingly fails to follow the directions…shall be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine.” Here is a form to use.

Oregon. Oregon Revised Statutes, 97.130 1) “Any individual of sound mind who is [an adult], by completion of a written signed instrument or by prearranging with any funeral service” may state a personal preference and scroll down to section 8 for a form to use to direct your disposition, and/or appoint your “Person to Make Decisions Concerning Disposition of Remains”.  Disposition arrangements that are prepaid or that are filed with a funeral service practitioner are not subject to cancellation or substantial revision.

Pennsylvania.  The designated agent law Pennsylvania Statute, Title 20, Chapter 3, Subsection 305, gives you the right to make a “statement of contrary intent” (see subsections B,C and D1) which overrides the next-of-kin’s usual authority and lets you designate whom may control the disposition. 

Rhode Island.  Chapter 33.3 of Title 5 of the Rhode Island General Laws, any individual who is at least eighteen (18) years of age and of sound mind is allowed to designate a primary funeral planning agent and an alternate agent, if desired, who has the authority and responsibility to make all funeral arrangements. Here’s a form provided by the State.

South Carolina. South Carolina Code of Laws, Section 32-8 subsection 315 allows you to preauthorize cremation. Subsection 320 allows you to name any adult you like (it does not have to be your next of kin) to authorize your disposition. You must place this authorization in a “will or other verified and attested document” (see section 62-2-503 “Attestation and Self-proving” to make a verified and attested document).

South Dakota. There is a personal preference law, found in Title 34, Chapter 26, Section 1 of the South Dakota statutes. Here’s the form provided in 34-26-77 to describe your funeral wishes and make them legally binding if notarized. Order of right and duty 34-26-75. Circumstances to lose the right and duty of disposition 34-26-76.

Tennessee.  In the absence of disposition directions, or a pre-need funeral contract, the right to make disposition arrangements goes to the person named as your agent in a durable health care power of attorney. This order is outlined in Tenn. Code Ann. § 62-5-703. If a person does not exercise the right within 72 hrs of notification (or one week of death) the right goes to the next person in order.

Texas. There is a statutory duty to honor the wishes of the deceased, who may also  name an agent to control disposition of remains. Section 711.002 DISPOSITION OF REMAINS; DUTY TO INTER. The following persons, in the priority listed, have the right to control the disposition…and are liable for the reasonable cost of interment: #1) the person designated in a written instrument signed by the decedent. You can use this form to appoint an agent to control the disposition of your body. But uniquely in TX state, whenever kin are equal, then authorization is only needed by one of them.

Utah.  A “designated agent” may carry out the wishes of the deceased. This right is found in Utah Code Section 58-9-602. You may assign this right to any adult. For the document to be valid it must be either signed by two witnesses, or notarized. Find an editable form at FCA of Utah’s plan ahead page.

Vermont.  In 2005, Vermont added to the state “Advance Medical Directives” law the right to specify the disposition of one’s own body, and the right to designate an individual to make decisions about bodily disposition. Vermont statute uses the term “agent” for healthcare directives but when referring to disposition directives it refers to “surrogate” and “individual appointed”. See Title 18, Part 231 of the Vermont Statutes. You can complete an interactive form for all the Vermont Advance Directives, including for disposition on page 4

Virginia. § 54.1-2825 “Any person may designate in a signed and notarized writing, which has been accepted in writing by the person so designated, an individual who shall make arrangements and be otherwise responsible for his funeral and the disposition of his remains, including cremation, interment, entombment, or memorialization, or some combination thereof, upon his death. This designee shall have priority over all persons otherwise entitled to make such arrangements, provided that a copy of the signed and notarized writing is provided to the funeral service establishment and to the cemetery, if any, no later than 48 hours after the funeral service establishment has received the remains”. There is a statutory duty to comply with the written wishes of the deceased.

Washington. Since 2011 the first right to control disposition goes to you! Next it goes to “a person designated” the legal right to make your funeral arrangements in a written document that is signed by at least one witness (other than the person to whom you’re giving authority). Revised Code of Washington, 68.50.160 states, “A person has the right to control the disposition of his or her own remains without the pre-death or post death consent of another person”. If no written instruction is left the right devolves in order of next of kin, and  where all equal “a majority”. 

West Virginia. As long as you and two witnesses sign in front of a notary Statute 16-30-4 allows you to express your funeral wishes in an advance medical directive, and/or to appoint a person to carry these out for you. The form is right there in the statute and reads, “I give the following Special Directives or Limitations: (Comments about funeral arrangements, autopsy, mental health treatment, and organ donation may be placed here____.” Section 6-1-25 lists further right to control and duty of disposition.

Wisconsin. .The official form gives citizens the right to designate a representative to carry out their funeral wishes which is active when signed by two witnesses or a notary. Thank goodness for this power because, “if inability to agree exists among any individuals, no funeral director, crematory authority, or cemetery authority is liable for his or her refusal to accept the decedent’s remains… or to complete the arrangements for the final disposition unless specifically directed to do so under an order of the probate court”. 

Wyoming.  Statute 2-17-101 allows that if you have not designated “another person  to direct disposition” then the right devolves, in turn, to next of kin. When next of kin are equal (as in both parents, or adult children or siblings), only approval from one person is required to authorize disposition decisions. So appointing a person could really help prevent family conflict.

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