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Topic: Funeral and Burial Instructions


By Milton Babirak, JD, LLM      |      Babirak Carr, PC     |     Sterling, VA

Sometimes people have strong feelings about the disposition of their remains upon death including their funeral and burial services. Perhaps they want a traditional burial or maybe they want to be cremated. Also, people may want to specify and organize the details of their funeral and burial services. It is natural to plan for this but it is emotionally hard work. There are several ways to do this planning: in the will, by oral or written instruction or by a formal designation authorized by statute.


Planning by Will. At first, you might think about planning these matters by including a provision for the disposition of your remains or funeral and burial instructions in a will. Surprisingly, this is rarely done. It is just not practical to do this in a will. Quite commonly, the will is not found or read until well after death and so any provision in a will is discovered too late to be much good.


Oral or Written Instructions. If you have someone you can trust, it is commonly the case that you tell them your wishes in these matters and they make the required arrangements when the time comes. This is simple and easy. It also may be problematic. What if that person has moved or is ill? What if the instructions are too detailed or numerous to leave to memory? Probably a better solution is to write a letter, sometimes referred to as a post mortem letter, instructing a close friend or family member what to do. Therein, you can also name a successor if the friend or family member cannot do it and you can be as detailed as you like.


Planning by Statute. Virginia statute 54.1-2825 permits a person to formally designate in writing an individual to make arrangements for the person’s burial or disposition of the person’s remains upon the person’s death. In certain situations where you want to make sure these matters are taken care of or where a person has strong desires on these matters, the use of a formal written designation by statute will ensure that your wishes will be carried out.

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