Why is a Designated Agent Important?

One of the most important things you can do to ensure your death care wishes are carried out is to designate an Agent long before you plan on dying. 

Knowing what will happen to our body after we die is important. And since you’re here and reading this article, we’re fairly certain you feel the same.

A critical step to ensure your death care wishes are carried out is to designate an Agent. A Designated Agent offers your survivors direction after you’re gone and ensures that what you want to happen with your body, happens. This can help provide peace of mind for all involved.

What is a Designated Agent?

A Designated Agent is legally responsible for carrying out your death care wishes and is appointed through legal paperwork. If an Agent hasn’t been designated, Washington law states that the role automatically goes to your legal next of kin. Your next of kin is legally defined in the following order as your:

  • spouse or domestic partner
  • child or children
  • parent(s)
  • sibling(s)
  • grandchildren
  • nieces or nephews

If you have multiple surviving next of kin, i.e. three children or two parents, the decisions have to be agreed to by a majority in order to be carried out.

How a Designated Agent affects members of the LGBT2QIA+ community

Some members of the LGBT2QIA+ community may not be comfortable with their biological family making these choices.

For example, if someone dies who has not legally designated an Agent, and they do not have a spouse/domestic partner or children, then their biological parents would be responsible for making their funeral arrangements. If the parents do not respect the deceased’s identity, the parents’ decisions could misrepresent the deceased’s wishes about dress, religious services, misgendering, or dead naming.

How to assure your wishes are carried out

Two options in Washington State ensure your wishes are carried out and your identity is upheld and respected.

  • Fill out a Designated Agent for Funeral Arrangements form and keep in on file with your funeral home of choice, as well as with your other important documents. We recommend that you give a copy to your Agent, too.
  • Pre-pay for your funeral arrangements with a funeral home of your choice. If a pre-arranged funeral plan exists, it cannot be changed after death. It can be changed or canceled by you or someone who has power of attorney for you during life.

The first option is typically enough for those who do not need to make immediate death care arrangements, however, it is important to note that if your Designated Agent cannot provide payment for death care services, the right to control death care will shift to next of kin.

Responsibilities of a Designated Agent

This person’s responsibilities will include:

  • Executing existing arrangements
    Your Agent will be legally responsible for carrying out any wishes you document prior to your death.
  • Making decisions for anything you have not arranged
    Your Agent will also be authorized to act on your behalf to make decisions for any arrangements you have not already pre-arranged.
  • Paying additional costs
    If you have not paid for all of your arrangements in advance, your Agent is responsible for the additional costs.

How to choose an Agent

When thinking about who to designate as your Agent, ask yourself questions such as:

  • Is this person someone I can trust to understand and honor my wishes as I have documented them? Can I trust them to follow my wishes, even if they don’t agree with what I want to have happen to my body?
  • Will this person be equipped to make these decisions at the end of my life? If I choose my spouse or child, will they be emotionally able, while managing the grief of my death, to see to my wishes?
  • If I haven’t already paid in full for all of the wishes I’ve documented, my Agent may be responsible for the cost. Is this person willing and able to handle the cost of executing my wishes?

Once you have someone in mind to act as your Agent, we recommend speaking with them to ensure they are willing and able to execute these responsibilities. You can find a template for how to start this conversation in our How to Approach a Designated Agent article.

Legally appointing a Designated Agent

Recompose has a Designated Agent form for our Precompose members that is legally binding. Even if you aren’t a member of Precompose, please feel free to download it to use as a sample.

After you’ve completed your paperwork, legal forms and written plans should be kept on file with a funeral home of choice, in your own personal important documents file, and with the friends or family who will be involved in your death care plan.

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About Recompose

Recompose is a licensed, full-service, green funeral home in Seattle offering human composting. As the first human composting company in the world, we are a trusted leader in ecological death care. We are Seattle’s only human composting provider and serve clients across the U.S.

Recompose Seattle
4 S. Idaho St, Seattle, WA 98134
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Recompose acknowledges we make our lives and livelihoods on the lands of the Coast Salish People, specifically the Duwamish People. We honor with gratitude the Duwamish People past and present, the land itself, and the Duwamish Tribe. Colonization is an active, persistent process. Indigenous communities continue to be resilient in protecting their ecological and cultural lifeways and deathways despite ongoing oppression. Recompose respects, shares, and supports this commitment to climate healing and environmental justice. Join Recompose in contributing to Real Rent Duwamish.