When you die, who will get to decide what happens to your body? It’s a pretty important question, and you have control over the answer even if you aren’t alive. At least, you will if you’ve taken a few preliminary steps before passing away.
In states like Texas there’s something known as Legal Rights to Disposition. It’s a way of ensuring that your body is handled the way you want after you die. But does it override the authority of the next of kin? And what does the documentation need to include to be legal?
Here’s what you need to know about Legal Rights of Disposition if you’re making advanced arrangements or currently navigating the murky waters of handling matters for a deceased loved one.
What Exactly is Legal Rights to Disposition?
Legal Rights to Disposition is simply terminology to describe a written document that specifies who has the authority to make body disposition decisions after you die. In Texas for example, Sec. 711.002. of the Health and Safety Code (Disposition of Remains; Duty to Inter) gives authority first and foremost to “the person designated in a written instrument signed by the decedent.”
As suggested, a Legal Rights to Disposition form is going to be a written document that designates a person or persons as having authority to make decisions about body disposition. It can be any written document, but it should include:
- The name and address or the person granting authority.
- Name of the person who is given authority to handle body disposition (may be called the “agent”).
- Clear statement that disposition of the person’s remains should be controlled by the agent.
- Special directives the agent is supposed to follow, such as the type of body disposition that should be used.
- Signature of the person providing authority.
- Signature of the agent signifying acceptance of the appointment.
Some states provide a generic form that can be used to establish who the agent should be. Regardless, including the information above will grant the person of your choice control to handle disposition, without giving them authority over other aspects of the funeral arrangements. It’s best to have Legal Rights to Disposition documentation notarized so that there’s no question about its authenticity.
It’s also a good idea to name at least one successor. This is the person who will become the agent should the agent die or become unable to carry out the duty to inter. The successor will also need to sign and date the document.
Legal Rights to Disposition is Different Than a Will and Next of Kin
The Legal Rights of Disposition documentation is not the same as a will. It’s also not the same as being next of kin.
Unlike a last will and testament, Legal Rights of Disposition is narrowly focused. It only pertains to who can make decisions about the disposition of your remains and how they should manage the process if you give specific instructions. It has nothing to do with the estate and what will happen to the deceased’s property.
It’s important for the next of kin to understand that Legal Rights to Disposition documentation overrides their authority. It doesn’t matter if you’re the surviving spouse, an adult child or a parent. The agent is going to be the person making the body disposition decisions even if they aren’t related to the deceased.
Do You Need Legal Rights to Disposition Documentation?
The short answer is – maybe. You don’t legally have to have this type of documentation because the law automatically gives authority to next of kin. That means someone should be handling the process regardless of whether or not Legal Rights of Disposition documentation exists. So, if you trust your next of kin to manage the process there’s no need for it.
But if you care about who oversees the disposition of your body you should have some sort of related documentation. This is especially true if you want someone who isn’t kin to handle the disposition decisions. This is often the case when there’s a domestic partnership or someone prefers to have a friend deal with the disposition of their remains.
You may also want to have some sort of Legal Rights to Disposition documentation if you have special directives for the disposition of your remains.
The team at Direct Cremate can clarify any questions you may have about Legal Rights to Disposition and the documentation that’s required for cremation. We can be reached by phone or text.