Funeral Representatives Have a Window of 72 Hours to Be Located

Under the Estates and Protected Individuals Code (EPIC), a designated funeral representative is someone who is appointed to have “the right and power to make decisions about funeral arrangements and the handling, disposition, or disinterment of a decedent’s body.” This person also makes decisions about cremation and what to do with cremated remains.

The representative has the right and power to make decisions about the deceased’s funeral arrangements, which they likely know from directives provided by the deceased person or from speaking with the deceased person while they were alive.

They’ll decide if the body will be buried or cremated, and if the remains are cremated, what will happen to said remains. Also, the funeral representative is responsible for coordinating the funeral, burial, or cremation payments, which may be made through the decedent’s estate, insurance, or some other source. If payment is not ensured by one of these means, the funeral representative is liable for the costs of disposition.

What does the amendment to EPIC provide?

House Bill 5117, recently signed into law by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, amends the EPIC to do the following:

  • Establish a window of 72 hours after an individual dies for the funeral representative to be located or to exercise the right of authority for disposition before that right passes to the next person in the order of priority;
  • Provide that the exercise of the right of authority for disposition means actually authorizing the burial or cremation of the decedent;
  • Allow the dispositional authority to pass to the county medical examiner (or the Department of Corrections (DOC) if the deceased had been incarcerated in a state correctional facility) if a person with dispositional authority fails to exercise those rights within seven days after the death; and
  • Allow a funeral director to rely on information provided by certain healthcare facilities regarding the existence of, and contact information for, a family member or personal representative.

Why was EPIC amended?

According to funeral directors, some situations (including those involving multiple marriages, offspring from multiple relationships, or family dysfunction or estrangement) present challenges in receiving authorization to proceed with a decedent’s final disposition in a timely manner.

Most of the time, these challenges can be worked through. However, there are situations in which the person or persons who are next in line in the order of priority are unwilling to interact with a funeral director, which causes delays in obtaining the necessary authorization to move forward with a burial or cremation.

Adding timelines under which failure to exercise the rights and powers to determine a decedent’s final disposition would move the right of authority to the next order of priority, and setting a timeline for when the dispositional authority can pass to a medical examiner, would help expedite a decedent’s final disposition.

Help is available

The attorneys at O’Reilly Rancilio are available to answer your questions regarding estate planning law. For more information, please call 586-726-1000 or visit our website.