The Mickey Rooney Example: Be Clear About Funeral & Burial Plans

Legendary actor Mickey Rooney died earlier this month at the age of 93. Over the later course of his life, Rooney offered many important lessons related to elder law estate planning. For one thing, he was a vocal advocate against senior financial exploitation. In 2011 he testified before a U.S. Senate committee that was analyzing the various aspects of elder abuse. Rooney told the committee that he was emotionally and financially abused at the hand of his step-children (the biological children of his estranged wife).

At that hearing, Rooney echoed the thoughts of many New York seniors who were in the same situation, explaining, “For years I suffered silently. I didn’t want to tell anybody […] Even when I tried to speak up, I was told to shut up and be quiet.”

Fighting Continued After Death
As his Senate testimony evidenced, there was significant feuding and disagreement within the Rooney family. Those fights continued this month after the icon’s passing. Reports note that Rooney’s wife wasn’t told of his death personally–learning about it on the news. Disagreement then broke out regarding burial. The wife apparently was not allowed to see Rooney in the funeral home or have any say in the burial plans.

Mickey’s wife allegedly wanted her husband buried near one of their old homes, where they owned land. However, the temporary executor of Rooney’s estate fought the move and instead recently explained that Rooney would be buried in the well-known “Hollywood Forever Cemetery” alongside many other entertainment stars.

It is unclear exactly what Rooney himself wanted. But, per the terms of his will, the trustee (and ultimate executor of the estate) ultimately was able to make the final decision.

Be Explicit About Funeral Wishes
Mickey Rooney’s struggles later in life often many lessons for those seeking to avoid family feuding in their golden years. Notably, it is critical to be specific about funeral and burial wishes–and put steps in place so that those desires are legally carried out. After a passing Some general tips to consider:

***It may be beneficial to buy burial plots or other items ahead of time. It can be difficult for family members to make these decisions and purchases in the short time available after a death.

***Alternatively, ensure that you are familiar with what happens to pre-paid funds and know exactly what you are getting. These can be complex arrangements, and it is important to get full value for your investment.

***Share your wishes with various family members, your attorney, and others. Avoid telling just one person.

***Put your wishes in writing. The more specific you are, the more likely that matters will proceed exactly as you intend.

Contact an elder law estate planning lawyer for help on these issues in New York.

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