Losing a loved one is always traumatic, but the pain can be even more intense if the there is a disagreement on the deceased person funeral arrangements. There may be conflicting religious beliefs, spiritual ideas or scientific ideology between the spouse and other family members causing confusion and upset.
Catherine Causey, private client solicitor at WBW Solicitors in Newton Abbot, outlines who has responsibility for a loved one’s body and explains the options if a feud breaks out over funeral arrangements.
Many people assume that it is close family members who have the right to determine how a loved one is buried. However, the duty to arrange a funeral actually falls to the deceased’s personal representatives. This would be the executors named in the deceased’s will, or, if they died without leaving a will, to the administrator under the intestacy rules.
Although personal representatives will usually leave it to a deceased’s spouse or close family to decide on funeral arrangements, if a no agreement can be reached, the personal representatives have the right to decide the method and place of the funeral and their decision would overrule any preference of family members.
The personal representatives have the right to decide where someone should be buried. If the deceased person is to be cremated, they have the final say as to whether and where the ashes should be scattered or where they will be kept.
If the personal representatives cannot agree on funeral arrangements, each would instruct lawyers to put the conflicting arguments to the court, which would then decide who has the right to make the decision, with the aim of laying the deceased to rest in a timely and decent fashion. The court also has the power to replace the personal representatives if appropriate.
How a solicitor can help
A specialist private client solicitor can help you draw up a legally valid will that makes it clear what funeral arrangements you would like and who you would like to organise them. Your wishes as to how you would like your funeral to be performed will not be legally binding, but they will guide your personal representatives and be persuasive if the matter has to go to court.
If a feud breaks out over a loved one’s funeral arrangements, your legal advisor can also negotiate on your behalf or organise for all the parties involved to get together with a trained mediator, who is independent and will not take sides in any dispute. The aim of mediation is to help the parties to iron out their differences and reach an agreement without the matter having to go to court.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.