Who owns your body when you’re gone?

Year Published: 2012

Some people don’t mind what happens to their body after their death but for others where, when and how they are buried or cremated is of great importance to them and their family.

The recent case of Ibuna v Arroyo considered some difficulties arose over who had the right to decide the deceased’s funeral arrangements. In this case, there was a disagreement between the deceased’s partner and his estranged wife and each of them had differing views on the funeral arrangements and where the body should be buried.

The Court decided that the executors could make the decision on the funeral arrangements based on wishes expressed by the person who had died during his lifetime. Although funeral wishes expressed in a will are not binding on the executors and in law there is no ownership in a dead body, it does fall on the executors to make arrangements to dispose of the body.

Difficulties can arise if there is no will and someone needs to be appointed by the Court to deal with the estate and to gather evidence of what the deceased wishes would have been. This can often happen in second marriages where the second spouse may have differing views on the arrangements to the children of a previous marriage.

This case highlights the importance of making a will and keeping it up-to-date so that your wishes are adhered too. It also reminds those making a will to consider leaving detailed directions about their funeral arrangements, particularly if there is likely to be friction between the family.

Those people that have the foresight to plan for what is ‘the inevitable’ are safe in the knowledge that they have made things a little easier for their loved ones in future.

For more information, please contact Helen Gowin in our Private Client team on 01260 282351.

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