The Michigan House of Representatives this week unanimously approved state Rep. Rodney Wakeman’s plan ensuring funeral directors have the necessary authorization to provide timely and respectful dispositions for unclaimed decedents.
“The process that determines who has the legal right to make funeral arrangements and final disposition in the event there are no heirs present lacks the necessary clarification,” said Wakeman, co-owner and director of Wakeman Funeral Home in Saginaw. “The misinterpretation in current state law has led to funeral homes across the state holding remains much longer than they need to.”
The Estate and Protected Individuals Code (EPIC) – the appointment process responsible for dictating and limiting who has responsibility for making final arrangements following an individual’s death – was recently revised in 2018 after multiple county public administrators were found prematurely opening estates of decedents with legitimate heirs.
As a response to provide additional notice to potential heirs, the process’ time period was extended, from 42 to 63 days after a decedent’s death. A public administrator would be appointed as a personal representative during this time. Wakeman, of Saginaw Township, said since the EPIC was revised, public administrators have been reluctant to seek authority as a personal representative for unclaimed decedents, generating an array of problems for funeral directors.
“Funeral directors are unable to conduct final disposition until they receive proper authorization from the person who is legally responsible for directing the disposition,” Wakeman said. “Without authorization, funeral homes run into long delays and hold remains for long periods of time, which can then be seen as a violation during regulatory on-site inspections. Passage of my bill out of the House is the first step in ensuring unclaimed remains receive proper, timely burials, as well as ensure our funeral homes are not exposed to what should be avoidable sanctions.”
House Bill 5103 ensures the 63-day time period does not apply to the appointment of a special fiduciary or special public administrator to authorize final disposition, which Wakeman said would give funeral directors across Michigan the timely authorization needed for the proper and respectful disposition of unclaimed decedents.
Wakeman’s plan now awaits consideration in the Senate.