What is a Disposition Authorization?

On the blog we’ve talked quite a few times about what happens to your body after you die. Now there are more options than ever when it comes to deciding what happens to your body once you’ve passed away (you can read about 4 Unconventional Alternative to Traditional Burial here). Whether you opt for one of these options, or for something more mainstream such as cremation or traditional burial, it’s important that your desires are clear and accessible to your loved ones when you’re gone.

But how do you make sure that your wishes are clear (and that they get followed?)? This is where disposition authorization comes in.

What a Disposition Authorization is

A Disposition Authorization is a legal document that allows you to declare what you want done with your body after you pass away. Your family members might have different ideas than you (or each other) on what should be done with the body after death. Having a written disposition authorization allows you to make your desires clear and takes any responsibility off of loved ones.

Disposition Authorizations can clarify more than just what you want done with your body. Disposition Authorization forms can allow you to detail funerary proceeding as well, such as where you want your funeral held, whether or not you want a body viewing, what you want done with your organs, even whether or not your want your obituary published in the local paper!

Does Washington State Require a Disposition Authorization

Disposition Authorizations are not required per se. However, if you have specific wishes for what your want done with your body after you die you must create a disposition authorization to ensure that your wishes are carried out.

According to state law RCW 68.50.160,

“A person has the right to control the disposition of his or her own remains without the predeath or postdeath consent of another person.”

Under this law, a valid written document detailing your wishes is sufficient for that document to be binding. In order to valid this document must be signed by you and a witness.

If you have prepaid for the cost of your body’s disposition, surviving relatives and heirs cannot cancel or change your wishes.

However, if no prearrangements for associated expenses exist or if your wishes exceed a reasonable amount, your survivors will have a say in your disposition. Designated agents will have first say in what happens to your body post mortem, including preparation, care, and disposition. After agents, the liability to make these decisions falls to spouses, surviving adult children, parents, siblings, and then guardians (in that order).

Can You Put this Information in Your Will?

Yes, you can have put your desires for your disposition in your will. However, it is highly encouraged that you have a separate document containing this information as well. There is a key reason for this.

In many cases, preparations and funeral arrangements are planned and carried out before your will or trust has even been read.

If the only place you put your disposition wishes is in your will, it may be too late to carry them out.

This is why it’s important to have a detailed Disposition Authorization in a separate legal document that is easily accessible.

Obtaining a Disposition Authorization

Whether you’re opting for nontraditional burial such as composting or traditional burial through a mortuary home, many establishments have their own disposition authorizations for your to fill out. If you have a specific place in mind as your final resting place, ask them about Disposition Authorizations.

Enforcing a Disposition Authorization

The best way to make sure that your wishes are acknowledged and enforced it to write them down and tell your survivors about them. When you create your Disposition Authorization, make sure to let your family know what your wishes are and where to find this document, so there are no doubts as to what your wishes are and where your family can find them.

Published 02/23/2022.