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Three Standard Fixed Price Packages
Three Standard Fixed Price Packages

Disputes about the Body

The most common kind of dispute that arises when someone passes away is in relation to their financial affairs and what is to happen to their Estate.  A less common but more immediate argument that  may arise between the Deceased’s loved ones is what should happen to the Deceased’s body and who has control over it.  Arguments of this nature can be extremely distressing particularly at a time when everyone is consumed with grief.

When a person passes away nothing they have said or  done in their lifetime gives them any control over their body after their death.  If they have a Will anything they have stated in their Will as regards the disposal of their body and their funeral arrangements is merely a wish and is not binding on their loved ones or Personal Representatives.

The general rule is that no person has “ownership”  of the Deceased’s body.  Instead we have to look towards who has a “duty” to dispose of the Deceased’s body and to make the funeral arrangements.  Identifying who has this duty is easy where the Deceased has made a valid Will.  In this case it is the Deceased’s Personal Representatives.  They are entitled to possession of the body and are responsible for its disposal which in turn means they are entitled to make all the necessary decisions relating to the funeral.

What if there is no valid Will?  In this situation case law makes it clear that the person with the right and duty  to determine the funeral arrangements and dispose of the Deceased’s body falls upon the person or persons primarily entitled to take out a Grant of Letters of Administration.  Matters can be complicated further where there is more than one person who is entitled to take out  a Grant of Letters of Administration  eg two or more children of the Deceased and they take a different view on what should happen to the Deceased’s body.  In such a case and in the absence of agreement, it would seem that there is no option but to make an application to the Court.  The Court is likely to approach the case on the basis that as they have an equal entitlement to take out the Grant, they should both be treated on an equal footing.  Therefore the Court will need to look to resolving the argument in a practical way having regard to the need to dispose of the body without undue delay but with all proper respect and decency.  No one can envy a Court faced with such a difficult and heart-breaking decision since the outcome will inevitably exacerbate the grief and upset of one party. 

*Prices exclusive of VAT and Disbursements

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