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Right-of-Disposition Upgrade Introduced in Senate as SB 551

Right-of-Disposition Upgrade Introduced in Senate as SB 551

On October 7, State Senator Tonya Schuitmaker (R-Lawton) introduced Senate Bill 551, the measure to upgrade Michigan’s right-of-disposition law.  Earlier this year the MFDA Board of Directors authorized its Government Relations team to begin working with legislative leaders to draft legislation that would provide greater clarity in determining who has the legal right to make funeral arrangement and final disposition decisions. Senate Bill 551 is the culmination of that effort, and was approved by the MFDA Board. The primary reform included in the bill is a provision that would allow someone the ability to appoint a “funeral representative” to make funeral arrangement and final disposition decisions on his or her behalf.

The major reforms included in the legislation are:

Funeral Representative:

Creating an agent, or funeral representative, to be designated to authorize disposition.
If a funeral representative has been designated, he or she will have priority followed by existing next-of-kin.
A funeral representative cannot be a funeral director, cemetery owner/staff, or an end-of-life caregiver.
Forfeiture of Rights:

Rights would be forfeited if the person(s) is unwilling to assume financial responsibility for costs incurred as a result of exercising those rights.
All rights would be forfeited if the individual(s) possessing the right is arrested for murder or voluntary manslaughter of the deceased.
Rights would be forfeited if the person fails to act within two days after notification of death.
Next of Kin Reforms:

Clarify that the majority rule standard for decision-making is a majority of those in the next-of-kin class that can be located after reasonable efforts.
Reform the next-of-kin rule by stating that priority stops after siblings. From there, any other relative—a majority is not needed.
Extend current immunity to reasonable reliance on representations made by any person who purports to have knowledge regarding existence or whereabouts of next-of-kin.
Probate Court Procedures:

Allow anyone wishing to assume responsibility for right-of-disposition rights to petition the probate court to revoke the priority of person(s) in a superior position.
Allow probate court to extinguish rights of a spouse upon a finding of estrangement.
Allow embalming while court proceedings are pending.
Clarify the authority of the probate court to appoint a special personal representative for the limited purpose of making final disposition decisions.
The measure has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by State Senator Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge). No hearings have yet been scheduled on the matter.

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