Burial Instructions in Your Will? Don’t Bother

Many people have an idea how they want their remains handled upon their passing, and want to ensure this method is respected. And unless you are like Vladimir Lenin and want the public to view your corpse in perpetuity (though I am not entirely sure he actually wanted this), when you pass away you generally want your remains to be dealt with relatively quickly. In the past people included their desires in their Wills, not knowing where else to state them.

A Will has to be accepted by the Surrogate’s Court under the Probate process:

(1) This requires an original Death Certificate which you usually get from a funeral home (but remember, the undertaker doesn’t know how to handle your remains because your desires are in a not-yet-valid document).

(2) You also have to get certain family members to agree to the Will in writing.

(3) Then the Will and other paperwork has to be processed by the Court.

By the time your Will is considered valid and your remains can be handled as you intended your body has been sitting in a freezer or imbibed in some funeral home for at least 4-6 weeks. This type of wait is…inappropriate? Gross? Regrettable. As such, New York does not often give burial instructions in a Will much authority, because even a lethargic state bureaucracy does not want to wait that long.

If you have strong feelings as to the ultimate disposition of your bodily remains you can utilize New York’s Disposition of Remains Directive:


It is easy to fill out, readily available to the public for free, and is far more effective (and not as gross) as stating your desires in your Will.

Q FOR YOU: Have you considered prepaying your funeral to ensure your final desires are upheld?

DISCLAIMER: Attorney Advertising. Please note that prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.