Some people will say that you should not include funeral wishes in your will because it might be too late by the time your executors get hold of your will. The best thing to do is to inform your next of kin of your wishes, but also make a note of your wishes in your will.
Your executors have the legal responsibility for your body on death. In practice, they will leave the funeral arrangements to the family, but when there is no close family, they have to deal with it. Provisions in your will give your executor confirmation of your wishes regarding basic provisions like whether you wish to be buried or cremated. You can be more elaborate and specify a horse-drawn carriage and a funeral procession if you wish. Or you may want an environmentally friendly burial or other particular wishes.
Just remember to include your funeral wishes when you do your will. Evidence of your wishes counts in court after you have gone and there is no better place than your will to leave that evidence.
Here are some cases that show you some of the disputes that have arisen over funeral wishes.
The wife of a deceased man wanted him cremated but his wish was to be buried in the family plot. The executor was able to get an injunction to stop the cremation from going ahead so he could carry out the wishes of the deceased man.
The executor wanted to return the deceased’s body to Jamaica where he was born, as was his wish. His daughter had other plans. She wanted to bury him in England, as she was concerned about the costs of repatriating his body to Jamaica against the cost of a burial in England. She went to court to seek an injunction to prevent the executor from carrying out her father’s wishes. The court refused her application and the executor was able to send the body to Jamaica to be laid to rest there.
American banker and war hero, Paul Lewis Morigi, met and married Olive Murphy in England during the war whilst serving as a naval officer. They divorced after the war and he returned to America and married Muriel Morigi, to whom he remained married for 60 years. About five years before his death, he left Muriel and returned to Eastbourne to be reunited with his wartime love, Olive. They re-married and lived together until he died at the age of 97. While Mrs Murphy was making preparations for his burial in a plot she had picked out, Mr Morigi’s children swooped into court and got an injunction to stop the burial. They wanted to take his body to the US where he would be buried with military honours and lie next to his son who died in 2009. The exasperated judge urged the two families to come to an agreement. Eventually, a broken-hearted Olive relented and allowed the body to be taken to the US.
These cases show the problems that arise where there is no clear evidence of the wishes of the deceased. In Mr Morigi’s case, each side argued about what he would have wanted. It is so much better to have a document where your wishes are recorded. Your executors are not bound to follow your wishes, but if you have appointed the right executors, they will ensure your wishes are carried out. Also, the courts will take the funeral wishes of the deceased into account when faced with relatives battling over funeral arrangements. What better documentary evidence of your wishes than in your will?