Who has the right to make funeral decisions?

When you pass away, the person who has the right to make decisions about your funeral will 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 not, the appointed administrator (your next of kin) would have the legal right to make the decisions.

The executor or administrator would also be responsible for covering funeral costs.

However, they are not legally obliged to do this.

Why not use life insurance to help cover your funeral bill?

Many people take out over 50 life insurance to help towards funeral costs, relieving this burden from loved ones when the time comes.

With the total cost of dying being £9,200 in the UK[1], it makes sense to put financial provisions in place.

An over 50s plan could provide up to £20,000 of cover, depending on your personal circumstances and budget. It also guarantees to pay out when you pass away.

You’re guaranteed acceptance if you’re a UK resident aged 50 - 85 and there are no medical questions.

Get in touch with Reassured to compare free quotes and secure your over 50s plan today.

Who has the right to arrange your funeral?

Who has the right to arrange your funeral depends on whether you’ve made a Will or not.

If there’s a Will

  • The executor(s) of your Will would have the legal right to arrange your funeral after you’re gone
  • The executor(s) is a person chosen by yourself when making your Will. They can be a partner, spouse, relative, close friend or a professional such as a solicitor
  • You can choose to have two executors to share the responsibility of managing your estate and planning your funeral
  • If the executor is a friend or professional, then they may step aside to allow the family to arrange the funeral

If there’s no Will

  • The appointed administrator would have the legal right to arrange your funeral after you’re gone
  • The administrator would be your closest living relative (next of kin)
  • The rules of intestacy (inheritance law) determines who is next of kin based on a specific order of priority
  • The order of priority as per intestacy rules is as follows: Spouse or civil partner, children, parents, siblings, half-siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, half aunts and uncles
  • If there are two people, such as two children, then a judge would decide who to appoint as the administrator

It’s important to be aware that the Rules of Intestacy doesn’t recognise unmarried partners.

This means if you don’t have a Will, and you’re in a long-term relationship but not married, then your partner wouldn’t have any legal right to make decisions about your funeral when you pass away.

Who is responsible for funeral costs?

There’s no legal requirement pay for a funeral.

However, if someone chooses to enter a contract with a funeral director to carry out your funeral, then they’d be legally responsible to cover the cost of the funeral director fees.

In most cases, the closest family member would arrange and pay for a funeral. If not, the executor or administrator would be responsible for this, but it’s not a legal obligation.

The person who covers the initial cost may be able to recoup the money from the deceased’s estate once probate has completed.

If there’s no money from the estate to pay for a funeral, or the next of kin/personal representative can't afford to or refuses to cover the cost (and no arrangements have been made with a funeral director), then the local council would need to carry out a simple cremation without a ceremony (also known as a ‘paupers funeral’).

Be responsible for your own funeral costs with over 50 life insurance

If you’re worried about the short or long-term financial implications of your funeral, then for peace of mind, you could arrange over 50s life insurance to help towards your funeral costs.

This is a policy for UK residents aged between 50 - 85. The pay out (sum assured) is guaranteed as the plan lasts until you pass away.

The below table shows how much the monthly premiums could be for a non-smoker looking for £4,000 of cover. Missing prices are due to this provider not offering cover to this age group:

Age SunLife logo OneFamily logo

Our friendly team will be happy to answer any of your over 50s plan questions and find you personalised quotes. Simply contact us today.

How much over 50 life insurance do you need?

Enter your financial commitments below to understand the level of over 50 life insurance you require.


According to Uswitch, it’s estimated that 23,000 people in the UK will still be paying off their mortgage by age 75.

Although an over 50s plan can’t cover the full cost of a mortgage (as cover is capped at £20,000), it could help to contribute some funds towards keeping your family in their home.


Research by Saga shows that nearly 6 million over 50s owe money on credit cards and loans, with average debt amongst this age group totalling £12,000.

Depending on your personal circumstances, an over 50s plan may not be able to cover all debts (as cover is capped at £20,000) but it could allow you to cover some debts in your name.


SunLife’s Cost of Dying 2023 report found that the average cost of a basic funeral is £3,953, with the overall cost of dying totalling £9,200.

A pay out from life insurance can help to cover all or some of these costs.


Age UK have found that many over 50s and 60s will be reliant on their pension to get by.

Life insurance can provide your partner with a helping hand on top of their pension.


An inheritance can provide your loved ones with a cash gift to spend as they wish.

Alternatively, you could leave a portion of your pay out to a charity that’s close to your heart.


If you already have a life insurance (or other financial protection) policy in place, and/or you have your own savings, factoring these into your sum assured could reduce the level of cover you require - helping you to save money.

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Who has the rights to a dead body?

The personal representative of the deceased has legal possession of the body.

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.

What if there’s a disagreement over funeral arrangements?

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

When a loved one passes away, it’s an emotional and stressful time, with lots of difficult decisions to be made.

Family members may have conflicting opinions over certain aspects of the funeral such as whether it’s a burial or cremation or whether to have a traditional ceremony or a celebration of life.

If there’s more than one person involved in organising a funeral, then disputes are not always avoidable.

Even if the deceased has left instructions for their funeral in their Will, disputes can still arise as these aren’t legally binding.

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

If you’ve made a Will, then your chosen executor(s) would have the final say.

However, if your executor(s) isn’t a relative then they may choose 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’ve not made a Will, then the appointed administrator (your next of kin) would have the final say.

Here’s an example of a dispute which involves the executor and the spouse of someone who’s passed:

  1. The deceased had appointed their cousin as the executor of their Will
  2. The deceased didn't leave any funeral requests and so the executor decides to arrange a cremation
  3. However, the deceased’s widow believes that they 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 they have the final say over the funeral arrangements

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.

What if there’s disputes over the validity of a Will?

If there's 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[2]

Most people hire a professional to help with making a 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 31% of the surveyed participants had made a Will.

Of the other participants:

  • 18% have pre-paid for their funeral
  • 16% had made a record of their wishes in writing
  • 33% had spoken to someone about their funeral wishes
  • 12% of participants had chosen a funeral song

How can I protect loved ones from high funeral costs?

If you’re a UK resident, aged between 50 - 85, you’re guaranteed acceptance for over 50 life insurance.

Over 50s life insurance can help towards paying for your funeral by providing a cash lump sum. Alternatively, it could provide a small inheritance for loved ones to enjoy as they wish.

No medical information is required and, depending on your age, budget and smoking status, you could take out cover up to £20,000 - enough to cover the £9,200 average cost of dying[1].

The best part is that cover is guaranteed until you pass away and it can be purchased through Reassured from as little as 20p-a-day. Simply get in touch.


[1] https://www.sunlife.co.uk/funeral-costs/

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

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