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Gov. Rick Snyder signs bill to help funeral homes and grieving families

CHARLOTTE, Mich. (SINCLAIR BROADCAST GROUP) - If you die, should your legal spouse be responsible for your funeral costs and carrying out your final wishes? Or should it be the responsibility of your family, or even your new significant other?

They are real questions lawmakers are tackling at the State Capitol.

This issue may sound a little bizarre, but some Michigan funeral homes have been struggling with this topic, so they asked lawmakers to weigh in.

Pray Funeral Homes in Charlotte has arranged funerals for 100 years. Joseph Pray is the driving force behind his family's business.

"I like being able to help the families through the worst times of their lives," he said. "The average person when we are making funeral arrangements is already emotional because they have lost somebody who is important to them."

To help make death less stressful for families, Pray and the Funeral Director Association of Michigan asked for the help of lawmakers.

Sen. Rick Jones answered their call.

"It's quite common now for people to split up," Jones said. "They don't get a divorce. The guy moves in with a mistress, the girl moves in with her boyfriend. Ten years later, somebody passes away. Who gets to bury them? Funeral homes are reporting it's a horrible problem for them. They don't want to be in the middle of it."

Sen. Jones' bill relieves funeral directors from making the decision on who the surviving spouse is.

Pray says as uncomfortable as it is, he's had to act as a referee in the past.

"Most cases we've been able to have most families come to some sort of decision without having to go to court," Pray said. "But I've heard horror stories from some of my colleagues who have not been so lucky."

Sen. Jones' bill gives funeral directors and families clarity about who is responsible for carrying out funeral arrangements.

The bill says a designated individual would first be responsible for the funeral arrangements, followed up with a surviving spouse, surviving children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, and siblings.

If there's conflict, funeral homes will no longer be in the middle of a family brawl because the bill allows a disagreement to quickly be brought into probate court.

Pray says Sen. Jones' bill, which is now a public act, gives him some relief.

"It will help me take care of things for the next 100 years. Although I'm not going to be here that long," Pray joked.

Last Thursday, Gov. Rick Snyder signed the bill into law.

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