Why should I specify my funeral wishes in my Will?
By specifying your wishes in your Will you are ensuring that your plans for your funeral are made clear whilst preventing your loved ones from having to making difficult decisions at a emotional time. This also avoids potential conflict between loved ones as to what type of funeral i.e. burial or cremation you would have liked.
What should I specify?
Most people may have a preference to being buried or cremated and if that is the case this should be included in the Will.
If you have very specific and detailed wishes then it is prudent to set out those wishes in a separate document, for example in a letter of wishes. This may include, who you would like to attend your funeral, what readings/music you would like, choice of undertaker etc…
Are my wishes legally binding?
Any funeral wishes specified are not legally binding as ultimately it is for your Personal Representatives to decide upon how your body is disposed of and your funeral conducted. However, where a persons’ wishes have been made clear they will normally be adhered to.
Funeral Wishes – who decides?
First it must be considered why the wishes contained within a Will are not legally binding. The answer to this is twofold.
Firstly, the Will may not be discovered for days or even weeks after a funeral has already taken place so the practical implications of making the wishes binding would be vast. Imagine if an executor could be sued for not carrying out the funeral as the testator directed!
Secondly, a Will is a direction to deal with property and there is no ‘property’ in a person, therefore the Will cannot be used to provide enforceable conditions. In the majority of cases the authorities have decided that the Personal Representative has the right to decide the arrangements or, where there is no Will, the person with the highest right to take out the Grant. This person may carry out the wishes contained within a Will or a letter of wishes but is not legally bound to.
If you have any queries about this legal blog, please contact our Private Client Team at our Old Market House Office on 01243 532777.