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Choosing Someone to Handle Your Remains When You Die

Wills & Estate Planning

This article by Legal Hospice of Texas explains how you can give a friend or relative the authority to make decisions about what happens to your body when you die. It is not a substitute for legal advice. Any questions you may have should be directed to a legal professional. 

What does “disposition of remains” mean?

The disposition of your remains is what you want done with your body following death. The most common dispositions are burial and cremation. 

What if you lack a disposition of remains document?

If you die without having a written document that appoints someone to make decisions about your remains, then your “next of kin” will have the right to control what happens to your body. In Texas “next of kin” means your relative(s) in the following order:

  • surviving spouse
  • surviving adult children
  • parents
  • surviving adult siblings

In some cases a person’s next of kin may be a group of people, such as a group of adult children or a group of siblings. 

Why have a disposition of remains document?

The Disposition of Remains document allows you to select the person you feel will best carry out your wishes regarding what happens to your body at the time of your death. The person you assign can be a family member, significant other, or a close friend. 

The document gives you the power to choose a person you trust to follow your wishes. It allows you to remove decision making from a group of people who may have differences of opinion regarding what should happen to your remains. 

Choose carefully and communicate clearly.

Your primary agent is your first choice for making decisions. The document allows you to name alternates in the event the primary agent is unable or unwilling to act. It is important to speak with your agents before completing the document to make sure they are comfortable following your wishes. 

Of course, whomever you choose must be a competent adult—that is, someone at least 18 years old. 

Can I change my mind?

Yes, your wishes may change over time and that’s OK, because the disposition of final remains is revocable. That means you can change your designee if one becomes unavailable or unwilling to follow your wishes.

When does this document become valid?

The Appointment of Agent to Control Disposition of Remains is not valid until the agents you have named sign and date the last page of the document. 
 

When does this document take effect?

The Appointment of Agent to Control Disposition of Remains becomes effective upon your death. 

Does a notary have to be there when your agents sign?

A notary does not have to be present when your agent or agents sign the Appointment of Agent to Control Disposition of Remains. 

Do my agents have to sign at the same time?


It is not necessary for the agents to sign the Appointment of Agent to Control Disposition of Remains at the same time.

Who pays for the disposition of my remains?

When your agent or agents sign the Appointment of Agent to Control Disposition of Remains document, they are agreeing to be held personally liable for expenses related to the disposition of your remains in the event the expenses are not pre-paid.

Related Guides

  • Texas Guide to Disposition of Remains

    Health & Benefits

    Decide what happens to your body when you die, and choose the person in charge of arrangements.
  • Related Articles

    Related Forms

  • Appointment of Agent to Control Disposition of Remains

    WTE-900

    Use this form to specify who makes decisions about how your remains are handled when you die.
  • Appointment of Agent to Control Disposition of Remains - SAMPLE

    WTE-800-Sample

    Use this form as a guide when you decide who makes decisions about how your remains are handled when you die.