Who has the right to arrange a Funeral?

It may not come as a surprise but often the first difficulty in an administration, particularly contested administrations is who has the right to arrange the funeral of the deceased.

This has become more prevalent in a situation where the deceased was not married to their partner, although their partner was effectively a common law wife for many years, and the ‘wife’ wishes to arrange the funeral, but the family want alternative arrangements particularly if there was a previous marriage.

The question of who has the right to the possession of the deceased body has come before the courts on numerous occasions over the years, it was held in ‘Williams v Williams (1880) that there is no property in a corpse unless it has undergone some process such as dissection or embalming. As a result of which or part of it acquires a value in itself. The decision was sighted recently in a case ‘Dobson v Tyneside Health Authority’ (1996).

However, a body does need to be properly disposed of and for the purposes only, a person who is responsible for disposing of the body has the right to possess it.

The following people are responsible for the disposal of the body;

  1. The personal representatives, if the deceased leaves a will, or the administrator if the deceased dies intestate.
  2. The parents of a deceased child.
  3. A householder in whose premises the body lies (including a hospital authority).
  4. The local authority for the area in which the body was found (if no other arrangements are made).

There is no ‘order of priorities’ with their categories, so situations do arise where more than one person may have the right to deal with the body for the purposes of a proper disposal. Similarly, cases sometimes arise where the co-executors, or parents for example cannot agree on how to proceed.

If you would like any further advice, please do not hesitate to contact us:
3C Legal Limited
Tel: +44 (0) 1684 212147
Mobile +44 (0) 7707 644738