What can you be buried with?
Posted on 19th December 2019
When your loved one dies, it may be tempting to bury special items with them. For example, when a family member of one of our team of Wills and Probate solicitors died, all of the family wrote lovely letters to them about their times together, and placed photos of them all together, to be cremated along with them.
In more ancient times, Pharaohs were mummified with amulets and expensive jewels, as well as being placed inside the tomb with lots of food, weapons, games and wall paintings, to occupy their time in the afterlife, and keep them fed on their journey through, which was long, as the ancient Egyptian’s believed.
The Co-op recently surveyed ‘Burying Traditions: The Changing Face of UK Funerals’, which revealed that most funeral directors have seem more unique and personal funerals and burials over the past five years then ever before, with 22% of UK citizens already stipulating to their loved ones what they want inside their coffin, before they die.
According to the research, some of the items included were a Chinese takeaway (and, we have to say, who can blame them; what a delicious choice of food!), a wedding dress, a fishing rod, a broomstick and, last but by no means the least surprising, a Wizard of Oz Costume. A further 15% of people stipulated items to help them escape from their coffins, including torches, mobile phones, and even an alarm button, just in case.
A perhaps newer trend, is rather than placing part of the living with the deceased, is taking part of the deceased with the living. Ashes can be turned into a multitude of personal items, now-a-days, with charms for bracelets, rings and other items of jewellery being popular. For others, items such as paper-weights for their desk, or fireworks may be the way they decide to go (and, yes, when we say fireworks, we mean actual-lighting-up-the-sky fireworks made from the ashes of your loved one).
Other ideas which have cropped up on funeralguide.co.uk included, tattoos made from the ashes, trees planted out of biodegradable urns, personalised vinyl’s, containing favourite music tracks or voice recordings of the deceased, and even incorporating the ashes into your new china mug. One Bride, as reported by BBC News in October 2019, even found bone fragments in her father’s ashes, which were added into her wedding day acrylic nails.
Whilst the above ideas may divide the nation slightly (a little bit like marmite, you either love the ideas or hate them), people deal with grief in different ways after they lose a loved one, and, as they say, grief can do funny things to people; including cause a dispute over how, or where, or what with, the deceased should be buried.
In the cases of Williams v Williams  (1881) 20 CHd 659 amd Rees v Hughes  KB 517, it was established that the administrator (generally, the person dealing with the estate if there is no Will) or executor (the person named to deal with the estate if the deceased left a Will) are responsible and have the right to possession of the body and they therefore have the duty to arrange for proper disposal.
In practice, our Will drafting solicitors have found that this role may be delegated to more immediate members of family, if the deceased, for example, appointed their local Wills and Probate solicitors to act as their executors, rather than a friend or loved one. However, if a dispute between the loved ones makes this task difficult, then ultimately, the person with that authority can make the final decision.
In one such case, where the two members of the family disagreed with the wishes set out in the deceased’s Will, led to a Court-made decision which confirmed that the Court had no right to determine if the body should be buried in Jamaica (as the deceased expressed in their Will) or if they should be buried in England (as the family members wished). The Court did, however, set out that they had the power to chose who should make the final decision.
Many people place a high level of significance on how and where their loved one’s body is disposed of, and therefore if any dispute arises between the family and friends of the deceased, it’s important to seek legal advice immediately. Afterall, your loved one deserves to be laid to rest with the most dignity and speed possible, and therefore you should act quickly to make sure that this happens.
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