Will my funeral wishes be respected?

On behalf of Attwaters Jameson Hill posted in Wills on Thursday, March 8th, 2018

If you’d like to be cremated or have an eco-burial, or want your favourite piece of music or a special poem to be used at your funeral, it’s important to leave instructions for your Executor, and ensure you make your wishes known to friends and family members.

As the law currently stands, it’s up to your executors to deal with your body, and technically they are not obliged to follow any funeral wishes set out in your Will. That’s why the Law Commission recently called for expressed funeral wishes to be made legally binding, commenting that it would like to see new legal rules in place that would “seek to provide greater certainty that a person’s wishes in respect to what happens to their body following death are respected”.

But whilst funeral wishes don’t have legal standing, where a person’s preferences have been made clear, they will normally be followed. Your Executor doesn’t have to arrange your funeral, this task can be carried out by a friend or family member, so it’s a good idea to raise the subject with those you’re close to, and let them know what form you would like your funeral to take. This can help prevent the discord and disagreement that can sometimes arise within families as to what should happen.

Making your wishes known

If you have a preference for cremation or burial, this should be stated in your Will. When it comes to specific details of what you’d like to have happen at your funeral, it’s a good idea to put these into a letter of wishes that is kept with your Will.

You can create what’s called an Advanced Funeral Wishes document, which you sign and have witnessed. It is a good idea to mention this to to close family members and consider giving them a copy during your lifetime, as sometimes by the time a Will is read, well-meaning family members have already gone ahead and made the funeral arrangements which might not be in accord with your wishes.

You may want to state in this document who you’d like to organise your funeral, where you’d like to be buried, or where you would like your ashes scattered. Adding details such as to what form you’d like your funeral to take, who you’d like to attend, any special music or readings to be used, whether you would want flowers or would prefer that mourners make a donation to a chosen charity, will help ensure that whoever makes the arrangements is aware of your wishes. The website for the National Association of Funeral Directors has a helpful checklist of choices that you may wish to consider, entitled “My Funeral Wishes”.

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