One listener wanted to know who gets to make final arrangements for somebody who’s deceased. I’m Amy E. Feldman.

A Pennsylvania listener suffered a death in the family—and a family conundrum. A friend paid for the funeral, and decided the man be cremated and his remains divided in half, with only half going to the man’s mother. The mother is devastated. And the listener wanted to know whether the person who pays for a funeral automatically gets to decide final arrangements. 

In Pennsylvania, as in most states, the law says if a person names someone to make arrangements before death, the person he names has the absolute right to decide. But if he didn’t name anyone before he died, then, in order, the decision goes to the surviving spouse, or, if none, the next of kin. The right to decide is not related to who pays. It might be too late for the listener’s family but it’s not too late for you to make your wishes known to avoid heartache for those you leave behind.

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