Would you like fries with that?

hawk in flightHere’s a question too few people ever answer:  After you die, who do you want to decide what kind of funeral you have and what happens to your remains?

Probably the most common answer is “What do I care, I’ll be dead?”

Some people clearly do care.  Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, requested his body be cremated and shot into space.  (His ashes were carried into space by a Spanish rocket in 1997).  Napoleon Bonaparte wanted his head shaved and the hair given out to his friends. Another gentleman directed that his funeral procession grab a whopper at the Burger King drive-thru on the way to the cemetary, to be buried with him. It’s unclear if he wanted fries, too.

Aside from doing unusual things, there’s a very important reason you should think about this question and come up with an actual answer.  Families that have twists and turns are the most vulnerable to black comedy movie worthy battles upon the death of an elderly member.  When there are children from a previous, or multiple, marriages, and a final spouse who is unrelated to some or any of the children, epic power struggles can emerge over, well, over anything really.

The struggle is real.  Grown children frequently feel they have more right to choose the final resting place for a mother or father than a spouse they may not know well or may actively dislike.  But in the eyes of the law, the spouse nearly always has the full authority to make all final decisions – that is, unless the deceased has properly spoken otherwise before his or her death.

While you, as the deceased, won’t have to deal with any fallout,  do you really want to create a situation where your loved ones spend time and money and psychic energy on whether you have a white casket or get cremated and dispersed in a firework instead of moving on with their life and treasuring happy memories of their time with you?

Do you really want your children to think you cared more about a new spouse than you did about them?

The solution is easy – make your wishes known in a legally enforceable way before you die.  You can either lay out all the details of your funeral and disposition of your body, or you can simply make clear which person in your life should be given authority to make all the decisions.  It’s up to you.  Doing nothing risks creating a family rift that could have been avoided and may never heal, and that’s not a pretty legacy to leave.

Celebrate freedom and human rights

liberty-bellOn this day in 1791, the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights, became the law of the land.  In 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a proclamation designating December 15 “as a day of mobilization for freedom and for human rights, a day of remembrance of the democratic and peaceful action by which these rights were gained, a day of reassessment of their present meaning and their living worth.”



Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Amendment VII

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.