Understanding Power of Attorney – The Ins and Outs of Decision Making

By: Lauren Griffith

When planning a funeral, there are many decisions to be made. From florals to eulogies spoken to other planning details for a funeral, there are several choices that a family of a lost loved one must make. Understanding the power of attorney and the ins and outs of decision-making is crucial while navigating this difficult time in your life. 

Some of the most important decisions to make when you lose a loved one and are planning their funeral are whether or not to cremate the deceased, whether to hold a traditional funeral or memorial service, where the service should take place, which religious traditions should be followed, who will speak at the service, etc. 

If your loved one is interested in pre-planning their funeral, these decisions can be left to them. They can make these decisions in their will or a legal document and can work with a funeral home or lawyer to do so. These decisions, legally, must be honored. 

If your loved one did not make decisions regarding their funeral before they passed, then the next of kin hierarchy must be followed in order for important planning decisions to be made. 

The next of kin hierarchy is a chart following a line of relatives who can make these decisions, beginning with a spouse/domestic partner, then children, then parents and so on through a list of close relatives to the deceased. 

A power of attorney (POA) is legal authorization for a designated person to make decisions about another person’s property, finances, or medical care. This authorization is made in a letter or other written authorization. The person authorizing the other to act for them is considered the principal, grantor or donor. 

While a power of attorney authorization could be made for decisions about property, finances and medical directives, it can also be made for funeral planning choices as well.

A Durable General POA is typically used for financial decisions and will remain valid throughout an individual’s incapacity, hence “Durable.” 

There is language recommended to ensure that the agent is granted proper “power” to make burial/cremation decisions. A good example of such language is: “My agent shall have the authority to make any and all decisions related to my final disposition at death, including burial and or cremation. He or she shall authorize, consent to and sign for these arrangements.” 

A Specific POA is typically used for a specific financial or contractual decision, such as a real estate sale.

In many instances, the person with power of attorney can make pre-funeral arrangements if the power of attorney is a financial document, permitting the person holding the POA to make financial decisions regarding a funeral, cremation or other death-related services.

Please be advised that POAs cease at death.

Making decisions to plan a funeral are typically collaborative with those closest to their lost loved one, even if the person holding the POA or next of kin technically makes the final call. Stuhr Funeral Home offers pre-planning services for those who wish to make these decisions independently or in coordination with their family before passing. This method gives the family who has just lost a loved one the peace of mind that the funeral arrangements are how the deceased would have wanted them. 

Stuhr Funeral Home, a trusted name in funeral service for more than 150 years, cares for families of those whose lives have ended. Stuhr Funeral Home is committed to providing quality arrangements to honor loved ones and family traditions. For more information about available funeral services, visit JHenryStuhr.com or call (843) 723-2524.