Buried or cremated?

Posted by Cathryn Culverhouse on
Have you considered how you would like to be laid to rest as part of your funeral plans? It is not just your wishes in relation to your financial estate that need to be considered.

There have been numerous disputes between loved ones who cannot agree on how or where to lay their loved ones to rest. Death is often something that people do not think or talk about until they reach old age. Therefore, when a loved one dies there can often become disputes about what they would have wanted.

You may be surprised to learn that your next of kin does not automatically have the right to decide your final resting place. The responsibility actually falls to the following individuals (in no particular order);

  • if you leave a Will appointing executors then they will have responsibility  for your funeral plans. If you do not have a Will then the administrators of your estate will carry the responsibility
  • the parents of a child
  • the householder in whose premises the body lies. This could be your landlord!
  • the local authority for the area in which the body was found.

The recent case of Anstey v Mundle and Anor saw a daughter and a niece at odds over where the their relative's body should be buried.

Valerie, one of the deceased's daughters, contended that the deceased's body should be buried in England where he had lived since the 1960's. Cynthia, the niece, however wanted her uncle to be buried in Jamaica where he had been born. It was suggested by Valerie that the deceased did not want to return to Jamaica because of a rumour that had put his life at risk.

Mr Jonathan Klein QC (sitting as Deputy Judge of the Chancery Division) decided that the deceased should be buried in Jamaica (in favour of the niece) based on the following factors:

  • The deceased's wishes – of which there was conflicting evidence and no valid Will. Mr Klein placed most weight on the evidence of the deceased's friend who reported that the deceased wanted to be buried in Jamaica. Neither the daughter's or the niece's evidence was of help in this regard;
  • The reasonable requirements and wishes of a family which were split;
  • The location with which the deceased was most closely connected. Mr Klein could find no evidence to suggest that the deceased was more connected to either location; and
  • Ensuring that the body is disposed of with proper respect and decency without further delay.

We will never know the deceased's true wishes about where he would have wanted to have been laid to rest. I for one would not want to risk putting my family through the stress and emotional turmoil of a trial during a time that is already difficult and upsetting. That is without even mentioning the expensive nature of such litigation.

Make sure you let your loved ones know of your wishes before it is too late by making or updating your Will!

About the Author

Photograph of Cathryn Culverhouse

Cathryn is a solicitor currently seated in the Commercial Litigation team, based in Oxford.

Cathryn Culverhouse
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01865 258041

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