A death, whether the result of natural causes, a chronic illness or sudden accident, is an emotionally taxing event for the deceased’s family and friends. The legal and personal responsibilities of surviving family members can be confusing and financially burdensome, and sometimes the wishes of the deceased can be overlooked in the process. Composing a Funeral Planning Declaration is one way that an individual can guide loved ones through the funeral arrangement process in the event of his or her death.

In Indiana, people can choose to include a Funeral Planning Declaration as part of their end-of-life and estate planning. Although funeral arrangements and wishes can be incorporated into a will, wills and trusts are often not available to families until weeks or months after the death of a loved one and thus not helpful to the family as they make arrangements.

A Funeral Planning Declaration is a legal document that can be immediately accessible to a family and outlines the decedent’s wishes for his or her funeral arrangements. Many individuals who compose a declaration give it to their lawyer or a loved one to hold until the event of their death. Funeral Planning Declarations are legally recognized documents that can be drawn up by adults over the age of 18 and of sound mind.

A Declaration outlines the deceased’s wishes for funeral and burial arrangements, can designate somebody to execute the arrangements, and even allocate money to cover funeral costs. Examples of things that can be included are the deceased’s preference for a traditional funeral or memorial service, choices for funeral readings and songs, preferences for cremation or burial and gravestone and other merchandise choices. A decedent can even allocate money to cover the maintenance of his or her gravesite.

A Funeral Planning Declaration must be made in the presence of two witnesses and be signed by both witnesses and the individual who composed the Declaration. It must be made voluntarily and the person designated to execute the deceased’s wishes cannot be one of the witnesses.

Putting your wishes for your death arrangements into writing can be very helpful to those who must oversee the arrangements after you die. Be sure to sign and date the document in the presence of witnesses, and have someone you know and trust keep it safe for you. Doing so will help make your death arrangements go more smoothly. If you are unsure how to proceed with your Declaration, contact an experienced estate planning attorney.