Funeral Planning and Burial Arrangements in Wisconsin

By: Attorney Amanda N. Follett, Schloemer Law Firm, S.C.

When completing an estate plan, clients often question how they should leave instructions for their children, including instructions regarding their funeral, burial, and/or cremation preferences.

Many clients request that their funeral or burial arrangements be addressed in their Will. Generally, we do not recommend addressing these issues in a Will, because a Will is often not read in time, and the Wisconsin statutes provide a preference list for who will control these decisions upon death.  If an individual has filled out a form called an “Authorization for Final Disposition Instructions”, the person authorized under that document will control the disposition of remains and burial arrangements.

The “Authorization for Final Disposition Instructions” is a Wisconsin state statutory form.  When properly completed and signed in the presence of two competent adult witnesses or a notary public, the Authorization permits a competent adult (the “Declarant”) to designate another competent adult (the “Representative”) to make funeral arrangements on behalf of the Declarant.  The Authorization also allows the Declarant to give his or her Representative information about preferences for final disposition of remains and funeral service.

Decisions that need to be made regarding the final disposition of the Declarant’s remains include the location, manner, and conditions of final disposition.  The Authorization can also direct the Representative to carry out any directions, instructions, and suggestions as expressed by the Declarant.  For example, a declarant can leave directions regarding:

  • Arrangements for a viewing
  • Funeral ceremony, memorial services, graveside service, or another last rite
  • Burial, cremation and burial or other disposition, or donation of the Declarant’s body after death
  • Religious Observations

Generally, the Authorization for final disposition is particularly useful if an individual believes that there may be disagreements regarding arrangements or that family members may not honor their wishes.  The Authorization is particularly useful if someone wishes to name someone other than who would be named by default to control these matters under the Wisconsin statute.  Under the Wisconsin statute, the following persons are given preference to control final disposition:

  1. Representative under an Authorization for Final Disposition
  2. Surviving Spouse
  3. Surviving Child
  4. Surviving Parent
  5. Surviving Sibling
  6. Next of Kin
  7. Guardian

For example, if someone is unmarried and wishes to have his or her partner make decisions, or if an individual without a spouse or kids wishes to name siblings over a parent or a close friend, this form would be necessary.  Another situation where this form may be useful is for someone who is in a second marriage and wishes to name children rather than their current spouse.

This is one form that should be considered in completing an estate plan.  If you have questions about this article or estate planning generally, please contact its author, Amanda N. Follett, at 262-334-3471 or [email protected].

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Disclaimer: The information contained in this post is for general informational purposes only and is not legal advice. Due to the rapidly changing nature of law, Schloemer Law Firm makes no warranty or guarantee concerning the accuracy or completeness of this content. You should consult with an attorney to review the current status of the law and how it applies to your unique circumstances before deciding to take—or refrain from taking—any action.  If you need legal guidance, please contact us at 262-334-3471 or [email protected].