By Shanna N. Yonke
April 4, 2023
Estate Planning Attorney Shanna Yonke explores Wisconsin’s default law regarding who gets to make decisions regarding the disposition of your body, funeral arrangements, and other matters that arise after your death. She urges viewers to utilize the authorization for final disposition as it takes precedence over default law and allows you to change your mind and revoke or replace the document at any time.
My name is Shanna Yonke and I’m an attorney on Ruder Ware’s Estate Planning team. In Wisconsin, there is a default law that says who gets to make decisions regarding the disposition of your body, funeral arrangements, and other matters that arise after your death. The law states that the following individuals, so long as they are at least 18 years of age and competent, have the power to control these decisions. First, your spouse; second, your children by majority vote; third, your parents; fourth, your siblings by majority vote; fifth, your next of kin which are extended family members in an order of priority as determined by Wisconsin law; and finally, the legal guardian of your person if one was appointed during your life.
If there are disagreements between individuals with the same priority, the probate court has the power to appoint a representative to make these decisions. For example, if you have two children and they cannot agree, then the probate court will appoint one of them as your representative.
What if you want someone else to make these decisions? Or, what if you want to change the order of priority among these individuals? Well, you can. Wisconsin law allows you to designate a representative using a document called an authorization for final disposition. In this document you can designate anyone you want as your representative.
This document takes precedence over default law. You also can use the authorization for final disposition to provide special directions and instructions to your representative. For example, you can include your wishes about last rights and religious observances, burial cremation, or donation of your body, and other arrangements after your death. If you change your mind about anything in the authorization for final disposition, you can revoke or replace the document at any time.
If you have questions about authorizations for final disposition, feel free to contact any attorney on Ruder Ware’s Estate Planning Team.
The content in the following blog posts is based upon the state of the law at the time of its original publication. As legal developments change quickly, the content in these blog posts may not remain accurate as laws change over time. None of the information contained in these publications is intended as legal advice or opinion relative to specific matters, facts, situations, or issues. You should not act upon the information in these blog posts without discussing your specific situation with legal counsel.
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