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Disputes about how someone should be buried

View profile for Leah Merrifield
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Sometimes disputes can arise between family members about how a loved one should be laid to rest after they have passed away.

Perhaps some family members think that the Deceased should be buried, whereas others think that they should be cremated, or perhaps there is a disagreement about where they should be buried or even whether they should be repatriated to another country for burial. These types of disputes can be incredibly distressing, and difficult to navigate.

One important thing to remember is that legally a dead body cannot be owned by anyone. It also cannot be stolen. However, certain people do have a right to control the body for the purpose of ensuring that it is properly disposed of. It will usually be the Deceased’s personal representatives who have the primary duty to dispose of the body and who are therefore able to make the decision, but this can be challenged.

As such, although personal representatives are usually responsible for arranging the funeral and burial or cremation, the court can step in where there is a dispute. The court can either appoint someone other than the personal representative with authority to decide what to do with the body or can give its own detailed directions as to how the body should be disposed of.

The court may take into account the following factors when making a decision:

  1. The Deceased’s wishes;
  2. The reasonable requirements and wishes of the family;
  3. The location with which the Deceased was most closely connected; and
  4. That the body be disposed of with all proper respect and decency, and if possible without further delay.

The Deceased’s wishes will often be a significant factor, however they are not necessarily binding.

If you require any advice on this issue, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our specialist private wealth disputes team.