I am single and do not have any survivors. Do I need a will if I want to ask someone to handle my burial arrangements?

UPDATED: Jun 10, 2009

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I am single and do not have any survivors. Do I need a will if I want to ask someone to handle my burial arrangements?

Asked on June 10, 2009 under Estate Planning, New York


L.M., Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 13 years ago | Contributor

A will is not a good place to express your death and burial preferences for one simple reason: Your will might not be located and read until several weeks after you die -- long after decisions must be made.  A will should be reserved for directions on how to divide and distribute your property and, if applicable, who should get care and custody of your children if you die while they're still young. If you have no survivors, you may still want a will to leave your assets to friends or organizations.

Regarding your final arrangements, you have many options for writing down your wishes and plans. If you like, you can write a simple letter to your executor and/or other loved ones and friends that spells out the details of your final arrangements.  If you write down what you want, let them know where the information is stored and how to get to it when the time comes.

It's a good idea to review your plans every year or two to be sure they still reflect your wishes. Update your letter or other instructions if you change any of the details of your arrangements.

If you die without leaving written instructions about your preferences, state law will usually determine who will have the right to decide how your remains will be handled. In most states, the right -- and the responsibility to pay for the reasonable costs of disposing of remains -- rests with the following people, in order:

  • spouse or registered domestic partner
  • child or children
  • parent or parents
  • the next of kin, or
  • a public administrator, who is appointed by a court.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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