Are You the Responsible Family Member?
We’ve seen it happen time and again. The person making the initial call to our funeral home turns out not to be the one with the legal responsibilities of making decisions related to the care of a loved one.
While they may feel that they should be the one to make these choices, the law doesn’t recognize them as such – and so their voice can become effectively silenced.
If the deceased has not expressed their wishes through a written document such as a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, or a Last Will and Testament, where the deceased has designated an agent to fulfill their wishes, then the order of priority set forth in Subdivision 2 of Section 4201 of the NYS Public Health Law is the following:
1. A person designated in writing pursuant to Public Health Law section 4201(3);
2. The surviving spouse;
2a. The surviving domestic partner;
3. Any surviving child eighteen years of age or older;
4. A surviving parent;
5. A surviving sibling eighteen years of age or older;
6. A lawfully appointed guardian;
7. Any person(s) eighteen years of age or older entitled to share in the estate and who is/are closest in relationship to the deceased;
8. A duly appointed fiduciary of the estate;
9. A close friend or relative who has executed a written statement pursuant to Public Health Law §4201(7);
10. A chief fiscal officer of a county or a public administrator appointed pursuant to the Surrogate's Court Procedure Act;
10a. Any other person who is acting on behalf of the deceased and who has executed a written statement pursuant to Public Health Law §4201(7).
The person designated as the responsible party, whoever they may be, needs to be present to make decisions, and sign documents. If you are unclear as to who is the responsible person in planning a funeral for your loved one, call us.
The Critical Importance of Designating an AGENT
If your loved one has yet to specify who they wish to be in control of their funeral service planning, and they are able enough to do so, now is the perfect time to take care of that important task.
This is especially important if they believe their relatives may not honor their funeral wishes, or if they are on bad terms with them; do not know where they are, or do not have any relatives living.
And, you might mention that appointing a specific person (agent) to arrange their funeral who is not a family member, but is deeply trusted, is a good way to ensure that their final wishes are carried out.
They can designate an agent by completing a form: Appointment of Agent to Control Disposition, a legal written instrument in accordance with Section 4201 of the NYS Public Health Law. We can assist you with this form which is available at the funeral home.
Should you have questions about doing so, call us, or speak with your family attorney.