The Right to Make Decisions & Pre-Need Agreements

In our experience, most families come together in a time of grief, and even when a loved one has not left any clear instructions or pre-need agreement, they work out the arrangements for the funeral service. Our funeral directors prefer things this way and are always available to help with making these decisions and educate you on pre-need agreements.

However, there are specific circumstances that occasionally lead to conflicts, particularly when the decedent has remarried. In such cases, the surviving spouse may want to make different arrangements than the children from a previous marriage. If this cannot be worked out, it is important to realize that it is not up to the funeral home to decide who is “right.” The funeral home cannot take sides.

The right to make final decisions about a person’s body and funeral services goes to the following people, in order:

  • A person named in a “declaration instrument” made before the death of the decedent, or
  • The personal representative or special administrator of the estate of the decedent, if one has been appointed, or
  • The surviving spouse of the decedent, unless legally separated, or
  • A person given this right by a designated beneficiary agreement by the decedent, or
  • The adult child, or a majority of the adult children of the decedent, or
  • The decedent’s parents, or
  • The decedent’s siblings, or
  • Any person who is willing to take on legal and financial responsibility for the decedent’s burial or cremation.

In Colorado, the law supports the surviving spouse’s decisions. Funeral homes must follow the wishes of the surviving spouse, even if they conflict with the children’s preferences. Any concessions made by the spouse are entirely voluntary and not legally required. Knowing this upfront may guide the direction of the discussions.

Avoiding Conflict with a Pre-Need Agreement

pre-need agreement

One effective way to avoid potential conflicts is through a pre-need agreement. By setting up a pre-need agreement, individuals can clearly document their wishes for their funeral arrangements ahead of time. This agreement outlines specific instructions and can designate the funeral home as the entity responsible for carrying out these wishes.

A pre-need agreement serves several purposes:

  • It ensures that the decedent’s exact wishes are executed as specified.
  • It alleviates the burden on family members during a difficult time, as they do not have to make challenging decisions amidst their grief.
  • It prevents disagreements among family members, especially in situations where there might be differing opinions, such as between a surviving spouse and children from a previous marriage.
  • It provides peace of mind to the decedent, knowing that their wishes will be honored.

With a pre-need agreement, the funeral home can carry out the deceased person’s wishes from their pre-planning for their funeral arrangements. This ensures that everything is done as they wanted. This not only simplifies the process for the family but also eliminates any ambiguity about the decedent’s preferences, thereby reducing the potential for conflict.

By taking advantage of a pre-need agreement, families can focus on supporting each other and honoring their loved one’s memory, rather than dealing with the stress and tension that can arise from making last-minute funeral decisions.