Authorization for Final Disposition

The Authorization for Final Disposition is a document which allows you to designate a representative who will have the legal authority to make decisions regarding your funeral arrangements and the disposition of your body. This document is still fairly new in the State of Wisconsin. Absent a signed Authorization, Wisconsin law designates who has such authority. The law establishes the following order of priority: 1) surviving spouse or domestic partner; 2) surviving child or children; 3) surviving parent or parents; 4) surviving sibling or siblings; 5) lineal descendants in the priority order spelled out in the Wisconsin Statutes; 6) the guardian at the time of death; and 7) any other person willing to control the funeral and final disposition who attests in writing that they have made a good faith effort and could not locate any of the persons in the above priority list.

Unfortunately, although Wisconsin law provides this hierarchy of authority, it does not address disputes between children, and in the event of a blended family, it would place the surviving spouse ahead of grown children. Further, the law does not recognize non-traditional couples unless they have entered into a domestic partnership. However, a representative named in a property executed Authorization would move into first position, giving that person authority before anyone one else on the list.

The Authorization for Final Disposition also allows you to make advance arrangements for a viewing; suggest religious observances to be followed; suggest a source of funds to pay for your final disposition; instruct what type of funeral ceremony, memorial service, graveside service, or other last rite you desire; and inform your loved ones whether you desire a burial, cremation, or other disposition or donation of your remains.

The representative named in the Authorization is not automatically responsible for payment of the funeral expenses. As a general rule, the decedent’s estate is liable for payment of the cost of the funeral and final disposition. However, any individual, whether the representative or another friend or family member, who signs a contract to pay for funeral services of the descendent, could become personally liable for those costs.

The Authorization for Final Disposition has become an effective means of both preventing disputes and providing your loved ones with valuable information regarding your wishes, and could become an integral part of your estate plan.

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