My uncle passed away last week. His next of kin lives out of state. Can someone else make the funeral arrangements but still have the next of kin take care of all the legal responsibility?
Anyone who pays for a funeral and/or disposition of remains for a decedent is entitled to reimbursement on a priority basis, ahead of all heirs and all or almost all other creditors, from the decedent's probate estate (i.e. the assets left behind by the decedent that are not subject to transfer via survivorship rights or a beneficiary designation).
But, next of kin, themselves, are not responsible legally for any debts of a decedent including funeral and disposition of remains expenses. Funeral and disposition of remains expenses can reduce the amount that they inherit, but they have no liability if the estate is insolvent. If someone pays for the funeral or burial or cremation of someone with an insolvent probate estate, the decedent's next of kin are not required to reimburse them for that expense (although often they will do so gratuitously).
If someone dies without the means to pay for their own funeral or burial or cremation, and no one donates the funds to do so, and the decedent is not a veteran entitled to a military funeral, most places have arrangements in place to dispose of that person's remains in a pauper's grave in the least expensive means possible. The means by which this happens are not uniform and there is often a mix of public and private financing for this form of charity.
His next of kin lives out of state. Can someone else make the funeral arrangements but still have the next of kin take care of all the legal responsibility?
Most funeral homes will accept credit cards and agreements to pay for a funeral from someone out of state via phone/fax/email, and will allow someone else to make the actual arrangements on their behalf with their permission. Typically, if the funeral home had, for example, a credit card on file authorized to pay for the funeral from someone out of state, they would accept oral authorization by phone from that person to allow someone else to actually handle the arrangements.