Schuitmaker ‘funeral representative’ legislation moves to House floor

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

LANSING, Mich. — The House Committee on Judiciary on Tuesday approved legislation that would improve efficiency and simplify the process for making and carrying out funeral arrangements in Michigan.

Senate Bill 551, sponsored by state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, would update the Estates and Protected Individuals Code to allow an individual to designate a funeral representative to handle his final disposition.

“Too often we hear of heartbreaking disputes between family members following a loved one’s passing. This legislation is meant to prevent those situations by providing clarity to family members for who is responsible for handling all funeral, burial, or cremation decisions,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton.

Under current law, when an individual dies in Michigan, decisions regarding funeral arrangements and final disposition of remains are made by the next of kin. When more than one individual comprises the next-of-kin class — for example, when the deceased had several children — a majority within that class would be responsible for making arrangements.

Thirty-five states have passed similar legislation to clarify who is responsible for making decisions related to final disposition.

“Today, families are often separated. Whether it is due to divorce, a geographical issue, or any other circumstance, funeral directors have trouble verifying who the next of kin is,” Schuitmaker said. “Allowing the designation of one clearly identified, consistent contact will benefit those involved in the funeral process, as well as the family who may otherwise have difficulty making arrangements.”

SB 551 will now move before the Michigan House of Representatives for consideration.