Planning your own funeral in advance can be accomplished using any one of several different methods. You can simply express your expectations to your family members. You can work with a funeral professional, explore the many options available, and create a written plan that will be retained by your funeral provider. This plan will be reviewed with the responsible parties in your family at the time of your death. This is usually referred to as “having your wishes on file.” The third option goes a step further; the funeral is funded. This entails a contractual agreement with the funeral home to provide the services and products you selected at the time of death. Each of these different scenarios generates a slightly different answer to the question at hand, “Can my spouse change my funeral plan when I die?”
In the first instance, where a person tells a family member what they hope will happen when they die, the responsible person may or may not carry out one’s wishes. So in this case, yes, a person’s spouse will make the arrangements and they will be responsible for the cost and most certainly can do as they choose. Although most families are loving and want to fulfill their family member’s wishes, this is not always the case. The most frequently occurring challenge in these cases is not disregard of the deceased’s wishes but confusion regarding what the wishes actually were.
Having “wishes on file” at the funeral home helps in that there will be a written plan; therefore, the opportunity for confusion is diminished. In this case, since there has been no exchange of consideration or money, the document is not a contract. So, here again a spouse can make changes as they see fit. Remember, in most families this is not a problem and arrangements move forward in harmony.
When a funeral is arranged and funded in advance, agreements are written and consideration has been exchanged so there is a binding contract. Still, a person’s spouse is the “owner” of the body in nearly every state by law and so, could make changes to the plan as they desire. This is rarely of concern. A loving spouse is most often grateful for the plan, aware of the decisions that were made, and pleased to carry out the plan. That said there are exceptions.
If a person making a funeral plan is concerned their plan will be altered by a spouse or family member in a way they do not want, there are remedies. Nearly every state has documents that can be completed and included in the funded plan that stipulate no one can alter the plan.
More than half of all funerals are arranged in advance. The practice of advance planning alleviates the burden of family members having to guess or remember what their loved one wanted in a funeral service. It is a much-appreciated gift.