Right to Control

In today’s society, understanding completely and correctly who has the right to control funeral arrangements is a priority.

New Jersey’s "Right to Control Law" (N.J.S.A. 45:27-22) outlines a next-of-kin hierarchy depicting who has the legal right to control the funeral and disposition of a deceased person.

With the exception of a court of competent jurisdiction appointing alternative directions, the right to control hierarchy is as follows…

  • Funeral Agent in a Will, or Designee on an active duty service member's DD Form 93
  • Legal spouse, or New Jersey registered domestic or civil union partner
  • Surviving children (over the age of 18)
  • Surviving parent(s) of decedent
  • Surviving sibling(s) (over the age of 18)
  • Other relatives according to the degree of relationship (i.e. Nieces, Nephews, etc.)

Role of Funeral Agent

The rights of a Funeral Agent to control disposition supersede the rights of all others, regardless of their relationship to the deceased. A Funeral Agent must be specified by name by an Attorney within a will.

Role of Power-of-Attorney (POA) (After Death)

A POA becomes null-and-void upon death, an attorney-in-fact has no authority to make at-need funeral arrangements. Health care directives expire upon death as well.

Role of Executor/Executrix (After Death)

An Executor has the right to make funeral arrangements if they are the legal next of kin, or if appointed as a Funeral Agent in a will. The Executor’s responsibilities are limited to financial matters, specifically; probating a will; locating deceased’s property; opening an estate checking account; paying bills; or filing appropriate tax forms, etc.

The information on this page was published in the November 2010 issue of the NJSFDA Forum publication.