When a person dies, their friends and family can often have differing opinions on the funeral arrangements, including the type and place of the funeral service, whether the deceased should be buried or cremated and where the burial should take place or ashes kept. Such disagreements can create additional pressures on what is already a very difficult time. We cover the most frequently asked questions in this area below.
Generally, in England and Wales, no one can own the deceased's body. The body does not pass as part of the deceased's estate, and the beneficiaries of the estate cannot claim rights of ownership over the body.
The personal representatives of the deceased have an obligation to dispose of the deceased's body. Personal representatives will be the executors of a Will or the administrators where there is no Will.
If the personal representatives and the family or friends of the deceased disagree on funeral arrangements or how/where the body should be disposed of, the personal representatives have overall authority to make the decision.
Although these wishes can be useful guidance for the personal representatives and the wider family, these wishes are not binding, and they do not have to be followed.
You could apply to Court and ask to be appointed as the administrator for the limited purpose of disposing of the deceased's body. If the funeral is approaching fast, it may also be appropriate to apply for an interim injunction to prevent the arranged funeral from going ahead.
The Court will consider, amongst other things:
The personal representatives can pay the costs of disposing of the deceased's body from the estate. If the costs are high and unreasonable, the personal representatives could be held personally liable. The deceased's wishes, consent of the residuary beneficiaries and value of the estate will all be considered when assessing whether costs of disposing of the body are proportionate.
If you are involved in a dispute over the funeral arrangements of a loved one or how their body is to be disposed of, please get in touch with a member of our Contentious Probate Team on 0161 941 4000 or email the Myerson Contentious Probate Team.