Why do burial disputes and funeral disputes occur?
A common misconception is that a person’s wishes, as often set out in their Will, are binding on their family. This is not the case. If a person specifies a particular way in which they want to be buried, the family are not required to follow this.
Sometimes, people are also unsure as to who is entitled to make the decision about disposing of the body, and often think that it is the next of kin who is entitled to make the decision. This is not always the case.
Who is responsible in these circumstances?
The general rule is the person appointed as executor in the deceased’s Will, or the person entitled to act as personal representative, where no Will was made, is the person who has authority to dispose of the body. Therefore, irrespective of other family member’s wishes, there is little that can be done to override this, unless the executor is acting wholly unreasonably.
As these kinds of disputes can only be resolved before someone is buried, the person who is disputing the burial has to act quickly. If no agreement can be reached before the funeral, you may have to apply to the Court for an interim injunction to prevent the burial going ahead.
When the person who has passed away has not left a Will, the person with the highest right to take out a grant of probate can take responsibility for the burial. The hierarchy (Rule 22 of the Non-Contentious Probate Rules 1987) is as follows:
- The surviving husband or wife
- The children of the deceased and grandchildren in the case of a deceased child
- The mother and father of the deceased
- Blood-related brothers and sisters, and niece or nephew in the case of a deceased sibling
- Grandparents; and
- Blood-related uncles and aunts and cousins in the case of a deceased uncle or aunt
Get in touch
If you are experiencing burial or funeral disputes, we can help. Stephensons have a specialist burial dispute team who will be able to advise you in relation to your dispute.
Please call us on 0203 816 9314 to speak to someone about your case, or complete our online enquiry form and a member of the team will contact you.