An article in today’s Washington Post describes the increasing trend toward “green” burials, which decrease the impact of the burial process on the environment. This reflects a growing consciousness that we can plan for the handling of our remains even during our lifetimes, in a manner tailored to our personal values and beliefs. Many of my previous clients have expressed a desire in their estate plans to have their ashes spread over a particular body of water or special place from their past. In a creative approach, some people are now opting to have their ashes buried in a biodegradable urn, with a seed inside, so that a tree may grow out of their final resting place, as described in the article.
Whatever your wishes for the handling of your remains, an estate planning attorney can help you ensure they are conveyed in the appropriate manner. In some states, giving a family member a durable power of attorney for the handling of your remains will help smooth the process. Many estate planners include funeral instructions in a will, but that can be problematic if the will is not read immediately upon your death. As an Air Force JAG, it was important that my clients’ families be instructed to promptly contact the VA National Cemetery Administration for potentially free burial in a national cemetery and/or an official headstone, flag, and full military honors. Whatever your plan, it is important that you tell your family about your funeral wishes and where to find the documentation of your wishes.
More information is available at the nonprofit Funeral Consumers Alliance.