What’s a Funeral Agent? And Do You Need One?


Planning a funeral is hard work, and it can be intimidating for families after a loss. A funeral agent is someone who is assigned in the will to handle funeral arrangements, and this can bring many families peace of mind. However, there’s still a lot of confusion around what a funeral agent is and whether or not you need one. 

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With so much uncertainty around funeral planning and the funeral industry in general, how do you know where to begin? Though there can be pressure to “do it all” when it comes to how to plan a memorial service, this isn’t actually true. Your loved one’s funeral or memorial is about the meaning behind it, not the specific plans. While you might benefit from having pre-paid funeral plans, this isn’t the right fit for everyone. 

In this guide, we’ll explore what a funeral agent is as well as whether you need one. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to funeral planning. It’s important to identify what’s most important to you so you can make sure you’re honoring your loved one without overdoing your funeral budget. 

What’s a Funeral Agent?

First, what is a funeral agent? This is a term that isn’t that well-known in the funeral space, so it’s normal to be a bit confused. In short, a funeral agent is an individual named by the deceased who is in charge of making funeral arrangements. They’re named in the will of the deceased. 

Though this role typically falls to the surviving family (spouse, parent, adult children, etc.), the funeral agent supersedes this. Many people have specific wishes for their funeral or memorial service. They might wish for someone other than their immediate families to execute their wishes, and this is where a funeral agent comes in. 

Though a funeral agent can be anyone, it’s most often an executor, friend, clergy member, or specific relative. The executor is the one who informs the funeral agent that they’re in charge of making arrangements. He or she also will be the person to notify the funeral agent of their budget for funeral costs.

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Who’s Allowed to Be a Funeral Agent?

With that in mind, who is allowed to act as a funeral agent? There is often some confusion about who is or isn’t allowed. In general, anyone can be appointed as a funeral agent. You don’t have to be related to the deceased to be the funeral agent. It can be practically anyone, with a few exceptions. 

A funeral agent can be the executor of the estate, but only if this is specified on his or her will. The only person who can never serve as a funeral agent is your funeral director. Because this individual is already involved in the funeral, it would represent a conflict. While a funeral director can guide you through your options, they aren’t entitled to make decisions on behalf of the deceased. 

The most common funeral agents are:

  • Family: If there’s a specific family member you’d like to serve as a funeral agent, you can make this clear in your will. This is needed if you’d like someone other than your next-of-kin to take charge. 
  • Friend: You can also ask a friend to serve as your funeral agent. This is common for those who prefer to relieve their family of these decisions. 
  • Clergy: It’s common to also choose a clergy member to act as a funeral agent, especially for those who wish to honor their culture or religion through their final service. 
  • Social worker: A social worker is also another natural pick for a funeral agent. Since these individuals are often close to the deceased, especially in times of crisis, they often help with planning. 

Any friend, relative, or professional can serve as a funeral agent as long as they’re not your funeral director. Though not for everyone, it’s important to know this is an option. Whether you’re beginning your own online funeral planning or helping a loved one, make sure you know what’s right for you.

What Does a Funeral Agent Typically Do?

Next, what does a funeral agent do? As explained above, a funeral agent is someone who is in charge of making decisions related to the funeral service. Planning for a funeral or memorial service is no simple matter. There is a lot involved in this process, though a funeral home typically guides your selected agent through each step. 

Though the specific steps depend on the wishes of the deceased, here’s what a funeral agent does:

  • Final disposition: One of the biggest decisions is handling the final disposition of the deceased. Whether this means a cremation or a burial, the funeral agent makes these decisions and executes them with the help of the funeral home. 
  • Funeral home: Choosing a funeral home is also part of this process, and the funeral agent finds the right provider in their area. 
  • Location: The funeral agent decides on the location for the funeral or memorial service (funeral home, church, home, outdoors, and so on). 
  • Schedule: The funeral agent also schedules the funeral, planning the order of service and any special elements. 
  • Obituary: Writing an obituary also falls to the funeral agent in most cases. 
  • Transportation: Arranging transportation for the deceased, the family, and so on can be tricky, so it’s important to have this taken care of in advance. 
  • Reception: Lastly, the agent also organizes a reception after the funeral. Though optional, this is a common way for friends and family to come together after a loss. 

Pros and Cons of Using a Funeral Agent

What are the pros and cons of using a funeral agent? This isn’t always the right fit for everyone, so it’s important to understand your own wishes. Not only will this help you make your own arrangements, but you can plan ahead for loved ones, as well. 

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Pros of using a funeral agent

First, why choose a funeral agent at all? With this decision falling by default on your next-of-kin, why take this extra step? In short, it’s the best way to make sure your funeral wishes will be honored. If you’re unsure whether your relatives will follow your exact wishes, it’s a good idea to consider assigning a funeral agent who you trust. 

Depending on your relationship with your loved ones, you might not feel comfortable with a relative conducting your funeral arrangements. This can be a personal decision, and it’s why many appointed friends, clergy, or social workers as their funeral agents. 

Cons of using a funeral agent

The biggest con of using a funeral agent relates to family disputes. Unfortunately, many can take this personally after losing a loved one. Next-of-kin and surviving family members often have strong feelings about how to arrange the final service. 

If you assign a specific relative, friend, or trusted individual as your funeral agent, you run the risk of upsetting your surviving family. As the saying goes, funerals are for the living. It can be difficult to navigate your family’s wishes even after death. However, it’s important to remember that your wishes matter too. 

How to Appoint a Funeral Agent

If you’ve decided a funeral agent is right for you, it’s easy to get started. The easiest way to do this is to create a legal will. You don’t have to visit an attorney if this isn’t in your budget. You can create a legal will online in just a few minutes, and this makes it easy to assign someone as your funeral agent. 

Alternatively, you can complete an amendment to your existing will. By nominating and appointing someone to serve as your Funeral and Disposition Representative, you ensure nobody else is able to take over this role after your death. When in doubt, speak to an estate attorney about your final wishes. 

» MORE: Online obituary that is 100% free. Honor a loved one beyond a newspaper.

Are There Any Good Alternatives to Using a Funeral Agent?

Finally, are there any alternatives to using a funeral agent? While it might make sense to assign someone as a funeral agent, you might not feel the need to make this designation during your lifetime. If you trust your next-of-kin to carry out your wishes, there is no reason to go to the trouble of creating legal plans. 

However, it’s always a good idea to talk openly to your loved ones about your final wishes. By creating an end-of-life plan and final will, you ensure your wishes are heard when you’re gone. Though it can be intimidating to start these conversations, this is the best alternative to a legal funeral agent. 

Is a Funeral Agent Right for You?

Now that you know how funeral agents work, it’s time to decide if this is the right option for you. There is no simple answer when it comes to final arrangements. When in doubt, follow your own judgment. If you’re uncertain about whether your next-of-kin will honor your wishes, it’s okay to take matters into your own hands. 

Are you ready to outline your own final plans? Create an end-of-life plan today for free and share it easily with your trusted loved ones. Only when you talk about what you want can you break down these barriers. 

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