The late Duke of Edinburgh is alleged to have said "just stick me in the back of a Land Rover and drive me to Windsor." Although it was due to the pandemic that he received his wish not to have a large state funeral, he had made his wishes clear. His family knew of his desire to have a simple funeral service, his designs for his hearse and to be buried at Windsor. Of course for the majority of us our funeral arrangements are not so public, but this very public funeral shows the importance of making your wishes known.
When a client passes away, one of the first questions the family ask is there are any funeral wishes set out in the will. Some clients have made their wishes known whilst others despite the solicitor asking the question when the will is prepared make no provision. Often it is those same clients who have then not had the discussion of what arrangements they would like with their family. In those circumstances the family are left to second guess whether it should be a burial or cremation and whether there should be a service.
There is often a reluctance to discuss funeral arrangements between family and friends. However this is an important discussion to ensure it is how you wish it to be. If you cannot bring this conversation up with your nearest and dearest then please do discuss this with your solicitor and ensure this is included in your will. Another alternative is to purchase a pre-paid funeral plan with a funeral director and provide your family with their details.
One of the first estates I dealt with as a Solicitor, was for a gentlemen who had no family. I had taken detailed notes of his funeral wishes and was able to give these to his friend who was executor. His friend sighed in relief and thanked me. He said despite being lifelong friends it was the one subject they had never discussed. Although the client had initially been reluctant to discuss his detailed wishes, once he started to do so he realised it was easier than he had anticipated and was able to give full details of what he wanted. Myself and the executor were then able to ensure his final wishes were honoured. His friend had assumed he would wish to be buried whilst in fact he wished to be cremated. Had that discussion not taken place, my client would have had the wrong funeral.
A number of clients now request that there isn't a funeral service, that they have a direct cremation and their family have a gathering to celebrate their life instead. This request can come as a shock to family and friends. Most often say that breaking with tradition doesn't provide them with an opportunity to have closure and say their goodbyes. Therefore if you do wish not to have a funeral service we recommend you discuss this with your family/
The subject of funerals is important as many assume it is their 'next of kin' who can make the arrangements. It is in fact your executor (or if you have no will your administrator under the intestacy rules) who is entitled to arrange the funeral. Therefore if your executor is not your spouse, child, or closest living relative, they may have a difficult conversation with the funeral director when advised they cannot make the arrangements.
Normally, of course, the executor and the 'next of kin' work closely together to agree the funeral arrangements. However if there was a dispute between them it is the executor who has the final say on the arrangements.
If there is a disagreement between the executors (or administrators) then the matter may have to be referred to the Court, for a judge to determine who should make the final decision.
Any disagreements on funeral arrangements will be taking place shortly after the death, when emotions are usually heightened. Any disagreement, especially if this has to be referred to the Court, may lead to a delay in the funeral taking place. Disagreements, therefore, can have personal repercussions as it could affect the grieving process and cause difficulties in family relationships.
Our recommendation therefore is to address the grim reaper in the room and have that awkward conversation with your family/friends about what arrangements you would like. Although it is not a happy topic to discuss at the dinner table (especially a Christmas one), it is an important one to ensure for your loved ones left behind arranging the funeral is easier.
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