To many Gen X and Millennial folks, it may seem like all estate planners ever talk about are senior and elder law issues. But they should keep in mind that most of them still have parents, maybe even grandparents, and they need to know what to do when their seniors need their help.
Lately, I’ve seen a number of younger family members really scrambling when they’ve lost one of those senior partners and then had no idea what to do about it. That may be more their fault than the young folks, but that won’t be much consolation if they might have helped their elders create a better road map for when they were gone.
So what to do?
The younger folks can work with their seniors on getting a Statement of Personal Information form completed, or if they want to go more extensive and commercial, they can head to Amazon for The Lasting Matters Organizer. Then they can start a lively discussion about all the important decisions that need to be made. By the way, at least 82% of people surveyed say writing down things for their families is important, but only 28% actually do it.
One of the “things” people should be clear about – that is, if they have any wishes at all – is the disposition of their actual selves. And unlike many post-mortem issues, like parceling out the family photos, this is one that needs to be attended to pretty quickly. There’s lots of law on this subject, but let’s just hit some high points.
You can specify in writing who gets final custody of yourself, but it’s probably not best to do it in your will, as that may not get dragged out for a week or two. Instead, one of those documents I mentioned in the last paragraph would be a much better place. If you don’t say anything at all, the decisions default to your heirs in order of relationship – your spouse first, then your children, next your parents, then your siblings.
If you’re going with a funeral home, they know the drill, and while they get paid almost as much as lawyers, having someone else who can just take charge at a moment like that can be worth it (and I’m not being paid to say so!). Even if you’re not buying into the full array of services, however, the pros can handle “removal” and either arrange for burial or cremation. And if you’re choosing the latter, you’ve also got the option of going straight to the Cremation Society of New Hampshire.
One final point here: there’s no law requiring embalming, no matter which option you pick, and there’s no requirement that you be buried or cremated in any particular receptacle.
Okay, let’s assume all the final bodily arrangements have been made; then there’s where you’ll spend eternity (whatever you think that means). Clearly, a little guidance from you on that topic would be helpful, too. I mean, are you envisioning the family mausoleum at Mount Auburn, or under the venerable oak in the backyard that you climbed as a child? The former is easy, but the latter is also a possibility in New Hampshire; that is, unless your town has an ordinance against private burial sites. Better check it out, if that’s what you have in mind. Even if that’s allowed, though, you’re required to notify the local cemetery trustees, and here’s an important factor: if there’s a burial site on your property – and that includes both bodily remains and urns of ashes – you’re required to state that location in the deed when you transfer the property. Better mull that over before you make a final decision, as it could seriously impact the property’s marketability, even way down the road. For more on all this, including increasingly popular “green” burials, you might check out nhfuneral.org.
L. Phillips Runyon III and his Peterborough law office, Runyon Law Office, PLLC, concentrate on estate planning, probate and trust administration, real estate and business law. Call (603) 924-3050, ext. 1, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit runyonlawoffice.com.