LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Rick Snyder has signed legislation sponsored by Sen. Rick Jones that alleviates the responsibility of funeral directors from having to make a legal decision about whether a spouse is truly a surviving spouse.
“The purpose of this new law was to address a growing situation that funeral directors were dealing with in Michigan: determining if someone is a surviving spouse,” said Jones, R- Grand Ledge. “It is becoming more common in our society for married couples to separate and not legally get divorced. In these cases, the spouses move on with their lives and oftentimes move in with a significant other. The problem arises when that person dies. Who has the right to make the funeral arrangements?”
Senate Bill 39, now Public Act 20 of 2017, relieves funeral directors from having to make a decision determining a surviving spouse if there is a conflict and allow for an appeal process in probate courts to determine the issue.
In Michigan, the list of who can make funeral arrangements for a decedent includes, in order: a designated individual; a surviving spouse; and the decedent’s children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents and siblings.
“If there is a disagreement now on who is the surviving spouse and who has the authority to make decisions on right to disposition, those people can appeal in probate court,” Jones said. “This was a decision that funeral directors should never have been forced to make, and now it will go to a family court judge who is best trained for these emotional legal disputes.”