Does the Executor of an Estate Have Control of a Body?

By Heather Frances J.D.

Emotions run high when a loved one dies and, in the midst of their grief, family members may be less likely to compromise about things, like the decedent’s funeral arrangements. Thus, it may be necessary for someone to exert control over such matters. Typically, the executor named in the decedent’s will has authority to make funeral decisions, unless the decedent made other provisions.

Executor Authority

Often, all family members participate in funeral planning when a loved one dies, but it can be difficult for everyone to agree on certain arrangements. If the decedent did not make plans for his funeral before he died, the ultimate responsibility to make these decisions falls on his executor or personal representative. This is the person named in the decedent’s will to administer his estate, which includes paying his debts and distributing his assets to beneficiaries named in his will. If the executor named in the will declines to serve as representative, the probate court will appoint an alternate instead.

Funeral Expenses

An executor does not necessarily take on financial responsibility for the decedent’s funeral arrangements. When he acts in his capacity as executor, he is making financial decisions for the decedent’s estate, and the decedent’s funeral arrangements become a debt of the estate. Thus, the executor’s decision may be guided in part by cost and what he feels the estate can afford. For example, if the executor estimates the decedent’s estate only has a few thousand dollars in assets, he may have to make less expensive arrangements than he would otherwise prefer. Executors are not required to pay the decedent’s funeral expenses out of their personal funds.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Designated Agents

Many states allow their residents to designate an agent whose only responsibility is to control the disposition of their remains. This can be the same person as the executor. This type of designation is particularly useful if someone wants to name one person as executor, to manage the financial aspects of the death, but wants another person to handle the funeral arrangements. For example, a family friend could be named as executor and a close sibling could be designated as the agent to handle the funeral arrangements. Some states, like Idaho, permit their residents to include such agent designations in their health care powers of attorney.

Funeral Wishes

Many states also allow their residents to detail burial wishes in their designated agent documents or personal wills. These details are often binding and cannot be changed by relatives, executor or designated agent. For example, Connecticut law allows residents to create their own legally binding declaration, with or without appointing an agent to carry out those directions. Funeral directions can be very detailed, for example, by including a list of songs to be played at the funeral service, or more general, such as whether the decedent wishes to be cremated.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Legal Guardianship in Nebraska


Related articles

Can an Executor of a Will Also Be a Beneficiary?

A testator, or person making a will, often names someone he trusts in the will to manage his affairs after his death. This person is referred to as a personal representative or executor. Since family members are often the most trusted people in the testator's life, one or more of them are frequently named as personal representatives even though they may also be devisees, or beneficiaries, under his will.

Duties of the Executor of a Will in Texas

Wills often nominate an executor to administer the deceased’s estate after he dies. Once officially appointed by a Texas court, the executor must gather the assets of the deceased, notify his creditors and pay his debts and taxes. After all this is done, the executor distributes the deceased’s remaining assets to those entitled to receive them under the terms of the will.

Who Enforces the Execution of a Will?

In drafting your will, you may appoint a person to serve as your executor, also known as a personal representative. This person will have the responsibility of carrying out your wishes pursuant to the will. Because the executor has a number of responsibilities and can be held personally responsible if they are not properly carried out, carefully consider appointing someone who is trustworthy and capable of carrying out the somewhat complicated probate process.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

Does Power of Attorney Become an Executor of the Will Automatically?

A power of attorney grants an individual, known as an agent or "attorney-in-fact," the power to act on behalf of the ...

Do You Still Have Power of Attorney if Someone Dies?

Powers of attorney do not survive death. After death, the executor of the estate handles all financial and legal ...

Does an Executor Have Rights of the Decedent?

An executor, also called a personal representative, has the job of winding up the financial affairs of a deceased ...

What to Do With a Will After a Death

Wills provide written documentation of the will maker's -- also called testator -- final wishes. Upon the death of the ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED