Tillem & McNichol

Len Tillem and Rosie McNichol

Dear Len & Rosie,

I was advised to plan out a will, which I have done, but I am running into a problem.

I am not a rich lady, and my will was done for me by my church at no cost to me. In the event of my death, I want my wishes to be carried out to the letter.

I don’t want any of my immediate family notified of my death. Is there way to prevent this from occurring?

I also do not want an autopsy on my body, as I feel that it would be disrespectful, and it’s my body and my choice, not their choice.

I have had arguments with the coroner’s office about this. I told them I would even put it in writing that I don’t want an autopsy even in the event my death is considered suspicious. It didn’t seem to matter to them.

Is there any way to make sure that my wishes are carried out?

Tammy

Dear Tammy,

If your estate is subject to probate in the courts, or if you die with a trust, then your relatives who would have inherited your estate by default, the “intestate heirs” of your estate, are entitled to notice of the probate or trust administration, even if the will or trust disinherits all of them.

If you want to avoid providing them with any notice, then designate pay-on-death beneficiaries for all of your accounts. If you own a home, you can record one of the new Transfer on Death deeds, which are revocable so you may update them at any time.

With respect to the disposition of your remains, you need an Advance Health Care Directive, so that someone you trust can make arrangements for your burial or cremation after your death.

Make sure that you name an agent, or alternate agent, who is younger than you are. If you can afford it, you may also prepay for your funeral and burial or cremation arrangements. With any luck at all, you’ll be safely in the ground before your relatives even learn of your death.

In your Advance Health Care Directive, you can also specify that you don’t want an autopsy, but unfortunately that may not put an end to it.

Usually an autopsy is performed when a deceased’s treating physician isn’t willing to sign off as to the cause of death. You can count on an autopsy being performed if it appears that your death is the result of foul play.

In cases of suspected homicide, the law considers the interests of the people in finding and punishing your killer to be more important than your right to privacy with respect to your remains.

You have a lifetime to prepare for your final reckoning, but when you pass away, it’s more or less out of your hands.

Regardless of what happens to your spirit, what happens to your corporeal remains and your belongings is governed by the law. While it is possible, with some difficulty, to live a private life, it is more difficult to die a private death.

Len & Rosie

Len Tillem and Rosie McNichol are elder law attorneys. Contact them at 846 Broadway, Sonoma, CA 95476, by phone at 707-996-4505, or at LenTillem.com. Len has a new video channel on YouTube.

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