The process of cremating someone is highly regulated from start to finish in most states. In Michigan specifically, a special form must be submitted to the funeral home or crematory to authorize the procedure before it can begin.
Those with the power to authorize a cremation in the state of Michigan are the legal next of kin, beginning with the spouse. In order to be recognized as a spouse in the eyes of the law, there must be an official marriage license, meaning that long-time partners are not eligible to authorize the cremation. In the absence of a spouse, children at or above the age of legal majority, which is 18 years old in Michigan, may authorize the cremation.
In the case of an unmarried and childless decedent, the order of those who can be considered legal next of kin and eligible for cremation authorization are as follows (all must be 18 years or older):
When the decedent is a minor, both parents must sign the cremation authorization form if they are both still living. In cases where a decedent has multiple relatives of equal kinship – for example if someone has several children or siblings over the age of 18 – a majority of signatures are required to authorize the cremation. So, if only one of three siblings signs the authorization form, the cremation cannot proceed.
However, if the person with the highest priority cannot be found, chooses not to act on behalf of the deceased, or fails to perform their duties within 48 hours of being notified of the decedent’s death, authorization power passes to the next person in the list.
Unfortunately, a will has no bearing on the legality of disposition in the state of Michigan. So while you may have stated in your will that you wish to be cremated, it doesn’t guarantee that your instruction will be heeded unless your legal next of kin applies authorizes it.
As power of attorney does not extend beyond death in the state of Michigan, those who hold it may not override the legal next of kin or act in their stead to authorize a cremation. The only way someone can authorize a cremation who is not legal next of kin is if they are a Personal Funeral Representative.
As of June 27, 2016, a Personal Funeral Representative may be appointed by the deceased prior to their death to make decisions regarding their disposition, funeral arrangements, and final resting place. This person has power over the decedent’s legal next of kin to authorize the cremation of the remains. Since becoming an option in 2016, this provision has provided a convenient solution for those whose family members may disagree about their mode of disposition, those estranged from their families, or those for whom finding legal next of kin would be difficult.
To become a Personal Funeral Representative for someone else, you must be named as such in their will, their health care power of attorney document, or in another document that is signed by two witnesses or officially notarized.
If you have more questions regarding cremation authorization or Personal Funeral Representatives, we’d be happy to discuss them with you.
You are welcome to call us any time of the day, any day of the week, for immediate assistance. Or, visit our funeral home in person at your convenience.