A funeral is usually arranged by close family members of the deceased, but what happens if they disagree, or if someone else has the legal right to arrange the funeral?
If the deceased has left a valid Will, then the named Executors have the right to organise the funeral and either a burial or cremation. If there is no valid Will, then the Rules of Intestacy govern the appointment of an Administrator to deal with the deceased’s affairs, including funeral arrangements.
An Administrator will always be a family member, but it is possible that an Executor won’t be, for example if the deceased appointed a friend.
In that case, the Executor can choose to step aside and let the family arrange the funeral that they want.
When disagreements arise
If the Executor has different wishes to the family and a dispute arises, it is the Executor who has the right to make the arrangements.
If people have differing views on what should happen, it can be very upsetting at a time that is already difficult. The best way to proceed is to keep communicating and compromise if you can, to try as far as possible to avoid conflict.
If the parties involved cannot agree on funeral arrangements, then an application can be made to the Court, who may decide in favour of the legally appointed Executor or Administrator provided they have acted reasonably.
Where the disagreement is between two or more appointees, the Court will decide the matter on the facts. If the deceased has expressed any wishes in the Will, these are taken into account, although these wishes are not in themselves legally binding.
The importance of leaving a Will
Leaving a valid Will that includes an expression of funeral and burial or cremation wishes may help to avoid expensive and upsetting disagreements after death.
It is possible to request a professional Executor in a Will, such as a solicitor, who will act in accordance with the deceased’s wishes as far as possible. This can also help to avoid disagreement between relatives.
If an unmarried person dies without making a valid Will, then their partner can be left with no say in the funeral decisions as well as receiving nothing from the deceased’s estate, as the Rules of Intestacy do not include those not directly related.
A Will can be a record of what the deceased wants to happen after their death, as well as ensuring that their estate is distributed to chosen family and friends.