Wakeman plan providing proper, timely burials for unclaimed decedents signed into law
RELEASE|March 12, 2020

State Rep. Rodney Wakeman’s plan ensuring funeral directors have the necessary authorizations to provide timely and respectful dispositions for unclaimed decedents was signed into law this week by the governor.

“This was about bringing clarity to the process that determines who has the right to make funeral and disposition arrangements for remains that are unclaimed,” said Wakeman, co-owner and director of Wakeman Funeral Home in Saginaw. “The misinterpretation in previous state law left many funeral homes across Michigan holding remains longer than necessary.”

The Estates and Protected Individuals Code (EPIC) – the appointment process responsible for determining 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 2018 revision of EPIC, public administrators have been reluctant to seek authority as a personal representative for unclaimed decedents, siding with waiting for the 63 days, generating an array of problems for funeral directors.

“Funeral directors are not allowed to conduct final dispositions until they receive proper authorizations from the person legally responsible for directing it,” Wakeman said. “Without these authorizations, funeral homes are forced into long delays – even holding unembalmed remains with no direction given for the type of disposition for the 63 days, which then becomes a regulatory issue for funeral homes for failure to provide disposition in a timely manner.”

House Bill 5103, now Public Act 59 of 2020, ensures the 63-day time period does not apply to the appointment of a special fiduciary or special public administrator for the purpose of authorizing final disposition, which Wakeman said would give funeral directors across Michigan the timely authorization needed for the proper and respectful disposition of unclaimed decedents, and removing the circumstance that could have led to unwarranted sanctions on the funeral home.


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