Burial Rites – Add To Your Health Care Proxy, Will, or Both?

Settling the finances, documents and other important affairs of a deceased loved one can be extremely difficult, even overwhelming. Adding the stress of trying to properly plan a funeral or memorial service just makes the situation even more difficult. This is why you should consider adding burial rites and directives for your memorial service (if you want one) in your will.

Obviously, your family and friends want to honor you, but they may not agree on how to best do this. Do not leave it up to them to figure out what’s best. Make their lives somewhat less stressful during this difficult time by providing guidance on what you’d prefer your service, if any, to look like. Additionally, you can grant decision making power to certain individuals to avoid family disputes on the issue.

Ok, so let’s say you want to include some directives on your burial rites – do you include them in a health care proxy or your will? I recommend, to cover your bases, including information in both documents. For example, you can provide in-depth directions in your will and refer your health care proxy to those directions.

In addition to providing directives for your memorial service, you can specify where you want to be buried (if a burial is what you prefer). Many people have specific locations like certain cemeteries or family property where they’d like their remains to be placed. Also, take comfort in knowing that there is a Virginia law which requires private property owners who have a cemetery on their property to provide access to family members. The specific Virginia code provision (§ 57-27.1) states:

Owners of private property on which a cemetery or graves are located shall have a duty to allow ingress and egress to the cemetery or graves by (i) family members and descendants of deceased persons buried there; (ii) any cemetery plot owner; and (iii) any person engaging in genealogy research, who has given reasonable notice to the owner of record or to the occupant of the property or both.

In our practice, we encourage all of our clients to fill out detailed instructions on their final arrangements to ease the stress for their loved ones. To learn more about burial rites and the importance of properly planning your funeral, take the time to sit down with an estate planning attorney in your area.