Monday, August 30, 2010

Disposition of Remains

Hi Friends! Today’s topic is “Disposition of Remains”. This is the legal way of referring to how a body is cared for after death. ( i.e., transportation, embalming, burial, cremation, etc.) If you’re familiar with my writing, you know that I have made other observations of our cultural climate of ‘rampant professionalism’. Most people think they have no choice about this set of procedures…or don’t want to be the one to make these determinations. So the choice and implementation of these options is most often given over to a Funeral Director. But… if a family chooses a home funeral, then in nearly all states,(there are 7 holdouts) a friend or family member can preside over the process. Most states in which this is true have laws that determine the ‘statutory preferences of family members for this role.’ That means there’s an order or “chain”, of relatives who are legally “in line” for the job. This may be fine with you—or it may not. Each family is different. If your choice isn’t in line with the state’s, you can circumvent this by planning ahead-- choosing the person you want to be in charge, NOW. Before you die. Be advised though, that in order for this to happen, a legal form that names the chosen person should be filled out and kept on file.

Are You “Good to Go”?

Today as I was updating things on my website, I noticed that the links to some of the information were no longer active—and that the forms I was intending to share have become inexplicably more difficult to find, at least in my state (Oregon). So I thought I would do everyone the service of linking them to this article. First, the one I refer to above, for those of you wanting to have your close friend or non-traditional partner act as your ‘funeral director’ - i.e. preside over a home funeral- in the event of your death. This form is buried deep in the bowels of the “….” website, sandwiched between lots of legalese detailing the hierarchy of relatives to whom your body disposition rights revert in the absence of a document like this. The document is not offered in pdf or word form on the site, and the text is formatted strangely. You'd really have to work to find this and then put it into a usable format. Why? Well, I don’t know… but don’t worry; I’ve done it for you.

Fill It Out Now!

It’s easy! I made it into a PDF you can download, print and fill in. Appointment of Person So no excuses—Go do it now. Grab two witnesses, get them to sign it, and put it in with your other papers regarding your death plans. “What other papers?” you ask. Well, papers like your Death Certificate Worksheet. What’s that, you ask? It’s a list of all of the information needed to fill out a death certificate. States are pretty darn picky about how these forms are filled out, so doing this yourself now can save lots of time and stress on your loved ones when you die. Most of this information is known by you. It’s collected and used for the census, (why we need to be intruding on a family’s time of mourning, in order to collect census information is another question…but that’s how it is right now). I’ve given you Oregon’s worksheet here; you can find a link for Washington’s on the “Resources” page of my website under 'Legalities'…residents of other states will need to do a bit of sleuthing on your state’s “.gov” website. Try looking in ‘funeral law’ –or try the Department of Human Services or Vital Records in your state.

Estate Law

While looking for this information, I found the Oregon State Bar Association’s newsletter with a very helpful section on “Disposition of Remains”(excerpt). You might want to print this out as well -or at least read it thoroughly. I like that it’s pretty clearly worded.

Exit Plan

I’m just going to make the case here (again!) for talking about death-in-general, and our own death-in- particular, ahead of time. Do some actual preparation before the fact. We do so much other kinds of ‘planning ahead’…but when it comes to death, we’re strangely superstitious.
Our minds say something like; “if I plan ahead, it’ll happen sooner”. As if we’re ‘inviting it’ or something! It’s an interesting phenomenon. I mean. I’m not immune, there are some things I find myself a bit superstitious about too; I’ll admit it right here. For instance, someone recently shared a little internet ‘game’ with me called the ‘death clock’. You plug in a simple set of information and it “calculates” your “Death Day”. I have to say, I didn’t do it! That fell into the ‘not tempting fate’ category for me. But that’s a bit of pop culture…with no real relevance to the actual ‘nuts and bolts’ of a death occurring. As far as the real stuff…like that form I gave you the link to? I’ve got mine on file. Signed and witnessed.

Doing these ‘nuts and bolts’ tasks opens the door to other levels of contemplation. I might write my own obituary again. I’ve done one before and it’s an interesting exercise! You might spend some time choosing music you’d like to have played, or poems you’d like to have read at your funeral. You could imagine it like planning a really nice party for all of your friends. You want them to laugh, to cry, to be moved, to share some nice food and drink, to tell some good stories… and to send you off into (wherever it is we go when we die) in a style consistent with your whole life.

What do you think? Will you make a notebook and start your own “Exit Plan”?
Let me know! Participate in the conversation by commenting on this posting using the link below.

Until next time…
~ Marian

This is the feature article from the E-Zine of a Fine Farewell . We post there twice a month, with additional information included in this blog, where you are free to leave comments. I invite you to subscribe. here
Newsletter and blog content copyright A Fine Farewell 2010
Images are used under creative commons licensing through Flickr shares - listed in order from top to bottom: PineGroveCemetery_byKevinDooley, the queue_by Marfis75, paperwork_by Anniebby, Exit?_by Konstriktion. Inclusion of images in no way implies endorsement by photographers of AFineFarewell.


Cari said...

I'm ashamed to say that I have not yet filled out my very important death documents, but I'm extremely motivated - even more so now that I've read your blog. Thank you. I've been procrastinating out of priority - not out of fear as far as I can tell. I realize what a mistake this is and fully intend to reorganize my priorities. I'll keep you posted of my progress; it heals with my accountability. Ciao~

Marian said...

Hi Cari! Thanks for your comment. I've got my own papers on file..and of course I've got my shroud! But I will say there are a few details that could be refined in my overall plan! Let's support each other in keeping this in the 'upper priority' file!