Jones ‘surviving spouse’ bill headed to the governor

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate on Tuesday enrolled 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 bill is on its way to the governor’s desk.

“As a happily married man of 43 years, this is a rather odd topic for me to work on. However, it is becoming more common in our society for married couples to separate and not legally get divorced,” said Jones, R- Grand Ledge. “The spouses will then move on with their lives and oftentimes move in with a significant other. Then when that person dies, who has the right to make funeral arrangements? This has been the situation that funeral directors have been dealing with.”

Senate Bill 39 would relieve 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.

“Under this legislation, if there is a disagreement on who is the surviving spouse and who has the authority to make decisions on right to disposition, those persons can appeal in probate court,” Jones said. “This is not a decision that funeral directors should have to make.”