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Michigan Funeral Law Overview

Introduction

Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult things we have to deal with in life. Selecting a funeral home, picking out caskets, and deciding who is in charge of the arrangements are all very tough decisions. Some people fear that funeral homes may try to take advantage of them during this time. The good news is that a vast majority of funeral directors are caring professionals, dedicated to helping you through the process. As in any profession however, there are some funeral directors that are less than honest, and they sometimes tarnish the public's view of the entire profession. In order to feel more comfortable during the funeral arrangement process, it is helpful to know the basics of funeral law here in Michigan.

How are Funeral Homes Licensed & Regulated?

Funeral homes and funeral directors in Michigan are licensed through the Michigan Department of Licensing & Regulatory Affairs. Funeral Directors (also called mortuary sciece licensees) must meet education and appreticeship requirements and are subject to criminal background checks and Funeral Homes are subject to inspections by the State.

Can You Have a "Do It Yourself" Funeral in Michigan?

No. Michigan Law requires that the handling and disposition of human remains be handled by a licensed funeral director. A funeral director must also sign the death certificate in Michigan. That said, most funeral directors will try to accomodate reasonable wishes of the family.

Who Gets to Be in Charge of the Funeral Arrangements?

The next-of-kin of the person who died. There is a hierarchy set out in MI law that goes down the order of succession, starting with the spouse, descendants (usually adult children), descendants of parents (usually siblings), etc. This can be found under MCL 700.2103 and MCL 700.3206. In MI, it doesn't matter if the decedent wanted someone other than his or her next-of-kin to make the decision, the next-of-kin has the right anyway. There is a common misconception that someone named in a will or a power of attorney has the right to control funeral arrangements--this is not the case unless that person also happens the be the next-of-kin according to the hierarchy set out in the law.

What Are Pre-Arranged Funerals?

Pre-arranged funerals are a way for someone to plan their own funeral. A person can go to a funeral home and pick out their own funeral services and casket. Some people also choose to prepay for the funeral. If a person prepays, the funeral home is required to forward the funds to a 3rd party escrow agent to hold in safekeeping until the time of need.

Does My Family Have to Follow My Wishes?

No. The next-of-kin (or a majority of those with the highest equal kinship) have the right to decide what type of funeral and final disposition you have. Even if you put your wishes in your will or pre-pay for a funeral, they can, in most cases, overrule your wishes.

How Do I Know What I Am Paying For?

Funeral Homes are required to give you a General Price List which has an itemized breakdown of all of their charges. Ask the funeral home for an itemized Statement of Funeral Goods & Services, which will have all of the services and merchandise you chose along with the corresponding prices. Take your time going over it, and if you have questions, ask.

Conclusion

A basic knowledge of funeral laws should help ease your anxiety when making funeral arrangements. Funeral directors are usually able to answer most questions that you have during the arrangement process. However, if you feel uncomfortable about something, have a question about your legal rights, or find yourself in a family conflict, you should consult an attorney who can answer your questions.

Additional resources provided by the author

Michigan Funeral Directors Association: www.mfda.org
Michigan Verify a License: www.2.dleg.state.mi.us

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