When you pass away, the person who has the right to make decisions about your funeral would be your personal representative, also known as:

  • The executer(s) of your Will or,
  • The administrator of your estate

If you’ve made a Will, then the executor(s) of your Will would have the legal right to make decisions about your funeral.

If you haven’t made a Will, then the appointed administrator (your next of kin) would have the legal right to make the decisions.

To prevent any uncertainty of your funeral wishes when you pass away, it’s important to make a Will and appoint a trustworthy and capable executor (or multiple executors with different skill sets).

Even so, what if there are disagreements about your funeral arrangements when you’re no longer around? Does the executor(s) have the final say? And who is responsible for your funeral costs?

Continue reading as we answer these questions, as well as explain in more detail who has the right to make decisions about your funeral…

Protect your loved ones with a funeral plan

One way to protect your loved ones from any confusion over your funeral arrangements is to buy a prepaid funeral plan.

A funeral plan allows you to take control of your own funeral arrangements and allows you to pay in advance for your chosen services.

Acceptance is guaranteed and you can spread the cost with monthly payments that suit your budget.

A typical plan includes:

  • An agent to help arrange the funeral
  • All necessary funeral director services
  • A coffin, hearse and pallbearers
  • A funeral service at a place of worship or crematorium
  • Family visitation to the chapel of rest
  • Bereavement support for family

You’d be able to record your final wishes and make of all the important decisions, protecting your loved ones from any additional upset when the time comes.

Reassured, an award-winning and FCA registered broker, can compare multiple funeral plan options on your behalf (free of charge).

Get in touch to secure a plan from as little as £20.38 a month*.

Who has the right to arrange your funeral?

This depends if you have made a Will, or not:

If there's a Will

The person who’s named as the executor of your Will would have the legal right to arrange your funeral.

This person may be a relative, a close friend and/or a professional such as a solicitor.

You may have appointed several people to be executors to share the list of executor duties when you pass away, which include administration of your estate.

If the executor is a friend and/or a professional, then they would have a duty to pass on your funeral wishes but would probably leave all the funeral arrangements to your family.


If there's no Will

If you haven’t made a Will, then your closest living relative (next of kin) would be appointed as an administrator and would have the legal right to arrange your funeral.

The Rules of Intestacy (inheritance law) would determine who takes on the role of administrator and this is usually in the strict order of: spouse, children, parents, siblings and so on.

If there are two people, such as two children, then a judge would decide who to appoint as the administrator.

The administrator would have the same legal responsibilities as the executor, so they’d have to handle your affairs and administer your estate after you pass away.

The Rules of Intestacy doesn’t recognise unmarried partners. Therefore, if you’re unmarried but have a long-term partner, then they could be left without any say in the funeral arrangements and won’t receive anything from your estate.

Who is responsible for funeral costs?

Essentially, the person who’s planning your funeral is responsible for covering the funeral costs.

For example, if someone has appointed the services of a funeral director to carry out your funeral then they must cover the funeral director fees (and other associated costs).

In most cases, the next of kin (closest family member) or a personal representative would pay for the funeral and then would recover the funds from the deceased’s estate once probate is completed.

If there’s no money from the estate to pay for the funeral, and the next of kin or personal representative can't afford to (or don’t want to) cover the bill, then the local council would then need to pay for a simple cremation without a ceremony (also known as a ‘paupers funeral’).


Be responsible for your own funeral costs with a funeral plan

If you’re worried about the short or long-term financial implications of your funeral, then for peace of mind you could arrange a prepaid funeral plan.

When your funeral plan is required, the funds paid towards your plan would go directly to the funeral director who’s carrying out your funeral.

Your loved ones won’t have to pay a penny for any of the services included in a plan, even if prices have risen in the future.

Lock-in your funeral costs today with a funeral plan arranged through Reassured.

Who has the rights to a dead body?

The person who has legal possession of a dead body would be the personal representative of the deceased.

As mentioned, the personal representative could be the executor (if there’s a Will) or the administrator (if there’s no Will).

The person who has legal possession of a dead body also has the right or duty to dispose of it.

There are some instances in which other people could have legal possession of a dead body other than the executor or administrator. Although this may be on a temporary basis.

These people could be:

  • A coroner
  • A hospital
  • Local authority

It’s important to mention that no one can own a dead body; it can’t be bought or sold as property.

Disagreement over funeral arrangements

Unfortunately, disagreements over funeral arrangements happen to even the closest of families.

When a loved one passes away, there may be conflicting opinions on every aspect of their funeral. Burial or cremation? Religious or non-religious? Traditional or a celebration of life?

Emotions would be running high and people can become passionate about how they think the funeral should go ahead, which is how major disputes arise.

Even if you’ve left instructions in your Will, disputes can still arise as these instructions aren’t legally binding.

So, who has the final say over your funeral arrangements?

If you’ve made a Will, and there’s a disagreement over your funeral arrangements, then the executor(s) would have the final say of how it should proceed.

But sometimes the executor isn’t a relative and they’ve chosen not to get involved in the funeral arrangements.

If this is the case, and there’s a dispute amongst family members, they could turn to the executor to make the final decision.

If you haven’t made a Will, then the appointed administrator would have the final say.

Dispute example:

  1. The deceased had appointed their cousin as the executor of their Will
  2. The deceased did not leave any funeral requests and so the executor decides to arrange a cremation
  3. However, the deceased’s widow believes that the deceased would have wanted a traditional burial
  4. In a court of law, the cousin’s decision to have a cremation would overrule the widow’s request for a burial
  5. Ultimately, the cousin has legal possession of the body and disposal shouldn’t be delayed any longer

What happens if executors disagree?

If joint executors disagree over your arrangements, and they can’t come to any compromise, then they would need to apply to the court.

Bearing in mind that a judge can only decide who has the final say, not how the funeral should go ahead.

Disputes over the validity of a Will

If there has been a disagreement over your funeral arrangements and/or the administration of your estate, then family members may challenge the validity of your Will (if you have one).

If your Will is deemed invalid, then this can cause a number of complications after you pass away.

Government guidelines for making a legally valid Will state you must:

  • Be over 18 years old
  • Make it voluntarily
  • Be of sound mind
  • Make it in writing
  • Sign it in the presence of two witnesses who are both over 18
  • Have it signed by your two witnesses, in your presence[1]

Most people hire a professional to help with making Will, as there’s less chance of any mistakes being made.

According to a survey by Sunlife, we aren’t very good at letting our loved ones know what we want for our funeral. In fact, only 38% of the survey participants had made a Will.

Of the other participants:

  • Only 14% pre-paid for their funeral
  • Only 17% had made a record of their wishes in writing
  • Only 34 % had spoken to someone about their funeral wishes
  • 21% of participants hadn’t made any preparations at all for their funeral.

Source: SunLife (2021), Cost of Dying Report, sunlife.co.uk/costofdying2021

Compare funeral plan quotes

With a prepaid funeral plan you can:

  • Cover the expense of your essential funeral services (at today’s price)
  • Make all the arrangements for your own funeral
  • Ensure that your funeral wishes are followed
  • Reduce the chance of family disputes over the funeral arrangements
  • Have peace of mind that your loved ones are protected

Funeral plans arranged through Reassured start from as little as £20.38* a month, for either cremation or burial.

Get in touch with our award-winning team to learn about the various funeral plan options.

Please note, your personal representatives aren’t legally obliged to use your funeral plan. However, they are more likely to follow your wishes if arrangements are already in place.

It would be sensible to provide all the details of your plan in your Will and ensure that your representatives are aware.

Sources:

*£20.38 a month includes a £75 discount only available to Co-op members. Based on a 50-year-old purchasing a Simple Funeral Plan at £3,220 after discount with 25 years payment term (total amount payable £6,115.40), as of 20th November 2020

[1] https://www.gov.uk/make-will/make-sure-your-will-is-legal

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At Reassured, we will provide you with quotes from Co-op Funeral Care, Dignity Funeral Services and Simplicity Cremations.

All of the funeral plans we provide are fully regulated by the Funeral Planning Authority (FPA) ensuring you and your money are protected.

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