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Last requests

Failure to specify how and where you want to be buried could lead to harmful disputes at a time when families should be trying to heal

22 June 2015

As a personal experience recently reminded me, planning a funeral can be a difficult and emotional task, involving a seemingly endless list of decisions. While in most cases the parties involved can reach an acceptable consensus, what happens when those who feel they are entitled to have a say in how the body is disposed of disagree strongly? Who is legally entitled to make that sensitive decision and what happens when there are no obvious next of kin?

Unless a corpse undergoes a process such as embalming or dissection, causing it to acquire a value in itself, there is no property in a dead body (Williams v Williams (1822)). This means no one can 'own' it and beneficiaries cannot claim rights over it, as it is not part of someone's estate.

Entitled by duty

However certain people are entitled to possess the body by virtue of their duty ...

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