The National Funeral Directors Association shares that “more adults are finding that funeral pre-planning offers great emotional and even financial security for them and their families.” This section of our site covers the issues, and the steps, involved in taking this important step.
Georgia law allows an individual to state in advance his or her wishes and preferences for final disposition. "Final disposition" is a term that means what ultimately happens to the body of an individual at time of his or her death. Thinking about final disposition is fairly emotional for most people; it is difficult to realize that each one of us will someday face this reality. Pre-planning your own, or your loved one's, final disposition in advance allows you the greatest amount of say-so as to your own preferences. Some people also find that it removes a burden for their loved ones; if you state exactly what your preferences are, families are not left to make decisions at a very difficult time. Pre-planning also removes uncertainty and conflict among family members who might have different views; they no longer have to guess what you would prefer, or have someone else impose his or her ideas on the process.
It is important to note that you have the option of pre-paying for your funeral or simply putting your wishes down in writing. Either way, your wishes are protected under law. Your wishes must be followed whether or not they are paid for in advance. Georgia law protects your family by further stating that if you have selected final disposition arrangements that your estate cannot financially cover, the family can demonstrate your estate's lack of financial resources for your wishes and change the arrangements to something your estate can handle.
Please review "Who Is Next of Kin: Georgia Law" under the For Consumers tab on this web site for complete details. That information provides the full text of Georgia law with the exact order of who has priority within your family for final disposition of your remains at death. This law tells your funeral home and community who will have control over your body, either to follow your wishes or, if you haven't left instructions, to determine who controls your final disposition.
Please note that under current law, the Advanced Directive for Health Care form includes a box to check for a person to handle your final disposition. You can check that box and name a person, OR you can leave it blank. In other words, you can have a health care directive WITHOUT naming a person to handle your funeral. If you check that box and name a person, that person becomes first in priority to handle your funeral. Please make sure that your funeral arrangements and your Advance Directive name the same person; otherwise, the Advanced Directive will prevail.
Some people have questions about their Final Will and Testament. Your Will can of course be used as a general statement of wishes in the absence of any other document attesting to your wishes about your final disposition. Please remember, though, that there are times that a Will may not even be brought forth until after the funeral is over because the Will primarily deals with how your estate will be handled. A Will doesn't typically give exact instructions about your funeral wishes; it would typically only state "Burial" or "Cremation". A funeral service contract takes precedent over your Will and gives additional instructions. It is a good idea that your Will and your funeral contract match in terms of burial or cremation.
Most people "pre-plan" their funeral by going to a funeral establishment and creating a written record of their wishes in a funeral services contract. Again, this may be pre-paid through cash, a payment plan, an insurance product or other similar arrangement. You may also elect to state your wishes without pre-paying. You will work with a licensed funeral director who can take you step-by-step through your options.
Please continue to the next section under the For Consumers tab, "Funeral Planning Advice," for a complete description of terminology, options and steps.