Friday, March 30, 2007

Final Resting Place a Gas Tank?

Combining estate planning and funerals homes is rather common in my practice. Combining those subjects with cars is uncommon. If you listen to National Public Radio, then you are probably aware of the show "Car Talk." No other show mines the humor in car repair and maintenance as does "Car Talk". I never thought the show would be the subject of a blog post, especially one related to estate planning. Actually, the show was the subject of posts on two different blogs and this is the third. The following is from Charles R. Goerth's blog:

Disposal of remains is not a laughing matter, but laughter can be excused if the remains are one’s own, I guess.

That’s what I concluded upon reading the posting today on Neil E. Hendershot’s Estate Planning Blog relating the Car Talk exchange between Click and Clack regarding use of an automobile to dispose of one’s cremains. (Cremains is the current descriptor in some quarters for cremation.)

Yes, that kind of topic does raise an eyebrow or maybe both. Both previous writers handle the issue quite well, but I came to a stop at this point:
Thinking about what to do with cremains is a question which comes up regularly in estate planning consultation. But first, recognize that this direction for disposition of remains shouldn’t appear in a Will. It should go into a Health Care Power of Attorney.
Mr. Goerth does not explain that a Will does not get probated until after the funeral. As in Pennsylvania, Indiana law gives the person designated to have the power of attorney (they are called an attorney-in-fact) under a Health Care Power of Attorney the power to decide on the principal's (that is the person creating a Power of Attorney) funeral arrangements. However, Indiana law also provides another method for the setting up of funeral arrangements prior to death. This other method is a pre-need funeral trust.

I always mention a pre-need funeral trust to my estate planning clients. The funeral homes do the paperwork for this kind of trust. The client would go to the funeral home of their choice, make their funeral arrangements (and I am including cremation when I use "funeral" here), and an insurance policy is bought to fund the trust. Nothing further needs done by anyone - client, family, or attorney-in-fact - when time comes to make any funeral arrangements. The client receives the funeral that the client wants without imposing upon the attorney-in-fact the hard choice of making funeral arrangements.