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Connect to the information you need in order to make end-of-life choices.

Not Sure Who to Put in Charge of Your Funeral?

At the time of your death, someone will have to make decisions like which funeral home to choose, if you will be buried or cremated, or if any event will take place where family and friends can gather together. That someone is typically your next-of-kin.

Your next-of-kin is an immediate family member such as your spouse or civil union/domestic partner, children, parents, or siblings. There are, however, certain instances where it may be irrelevant or undesirable to have your next-of-kin be responsible for your funeral arrangements.

Maybe you never married your significant other or you have become estranged from your next-of-kin. Perhaps one of your children is a little more inclined to follow your wishes than the others, or you are concerned your children will disagree regarding how to execute your funeral after your death.

In situations like these, designating a Funeral Agent is a viable option.

What is a Funeral Agent?

A Funeral Agent is a person designated to have legal responsibility, or what funeral directors refer to as the right to control, over all of the matters concerning your disposition.  

In New Jersey, appropriately appointed Funeral Agents have the absolute right to arrange your funeral. The Funeral Agent’s right to control the decisions surrounding your funeral supersedes the rights of all others, including spouses, civil union and domestic partners, children, parents and siblings.

Who can be a Funeral Agent?

You can appoint whomever you wish to be your Funeral Agent except, for obvious reasons, your funeral director or any employee of the funeral home, cemetery or crematory that will handle your funeral. Your appointed Funeral Agent can be just about anyone including a friend, clergy member, social worker, or extended family.

How do I appoint a Funeral Agent?

New Jersey law provides two options for those seeking to appoint a funeral agent.

The first method is through a will or a codicil to a will. Those wishing to appoint a funeral agent by this method should talk to an attorney and explain that they wish to designate an individual as a funeral agent according to N.J.S.A. 45:27-22. The executor of a person’s will is not automatically the funeral agent, unless a specific appointment and wording is included in the will.

The attorney will either draw up a will or amend the existing will to include language similar to the following to appoint a funeral agent:

Appointment of Funeral and Disposition Representative
"I hereby nominate, constitute and appoint [insert name] to serve as my Funeral and Disposition Representative, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 45:27-22. My Representative shall have the authority and power to control the arrangements for my funeral and the disposition of my remains. My Executor shall notify my Representative of this appointment, and shall advise my Representative of the financial means available to carry out the Funeral and Disposition arrangements. In the event [insert name] should predecease me or for some other reason not qualify to serve as my Funeral and Disposition Representative, then I nominate, constitute and appoint [insert name of alternate] as my Funeral and Disposition Representative.”

The second method is through the execution of a form approved by the New Jersey Cemetery Board. The form must be signed by the intended funeral recipient and two witnesses and notarized. The form can be found here:

Should I appoint a Funeral Agent?

If you are concerned that your surviving family member(s) will not adhere to your wishes, suspect that there will be family arguments, or know there will be no one to make those decisions on your behalf, it may be time to consider a Funeral Agent designation.