When someone dies it is not always clear who should arrange their funeral. If the deceased left a Will, the responsibility will usually fall to the Executor. However, if there is no Will, it can be less clear who has the responsibility, or even the right to arrange the funeral.
If there is no Will or the validity of the Will is being challenged, the task of arranging the funeral usually falls on the person who has priority under the Intestacy Rules (the Administrator). The order of priority is as follows:
- Spouse/Civil Partner
- Children of the deceased and the child/children of any deceased child who died before the deceased
- Brothers and sisters of the whole blood and the child/children of any deceased brother or sister of the whole blood who died before the deceased
- Brothers and sisters of the half blood and the child/children of any deceased brother or sister of the half blood who died before the deceased
- Uncles and aunts of the whole blood and the child/children of any deceased uncle or aunt of the whole blood who died before the deceased
- Uncles and aunts of the half blood and the child/children of any deceased uncle or aunt of the half blood who died before the deceased
If family members cannot agree on arrangements, the Personal Representative has the right to overrule the decisions of other family members.
What if there is a dispute about who can make funeral arrangements?
If there is a dispute as to who should arrange the funeral or the validity of a Will is being challenged, the parties can apply to the Court to decide who is entitled to make the decision. The Court will consider the circumstances, evidence and wishes of the family in order to settle disputes.
A very sad dispute about funeral arrangements arose in the recent case of Otitoju v Onwordi. In this case, the deceased daughter (Ms Otitoju) issued a claim against the deceased’s partner (Ms Onwordi) seeking an order that she was entitled to possession of her father’s body and to arrange the funeral, as it was alleged that he died intestate. The Judge granted an injunction in her favour restraining the deceased’s partner from taking possession of his body and confirmed that the deceased’s daughter was entitled to remove the body and arrange the funeral.
The deceased’s partner then issued an application for the order in favour of the deceased’s daughter to be set aside, as the deceased had in fact made a Will. The Will appointed the deceased partner’s daughter as the Executor. Although the Will was signed by way of a fingerprint instead of a signature, the Court held that it was a valid Will as it met the requirement of Section 9 of the Wills Act 1837. As such, the Executor of the deceased’s Will had the right to possession of the body for the purposes of arranging the funeral.
Who pays for the funeral?
The cost of the funeral is an estate liability and therefore funds can be released from the deceased’s estate to pay for the funeral. The funeral invoice can be presented to the bank with a death certificate and a request can be made for the bank to make payment directly to the funeral directors.
Some people plan their funeral in advance by arranging prepaid funeral plan in order to avoid disputes and make things easier for their loved ones.
It is advisable to include funeral wishes in your Will and to notify the Executor/family members of such wishes to avoid disputes after death.
Should you wish to make a Will it is advisable to use a regulated Wills and Probate solicitor. If you would like to arrange a meeting with us to discuss making a Will please give us a call on 01279 295047 or complete our contact form and we will be in touch.