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Your death will likely be an emotional and traumatic event for your family and friends.

The initial shock and reality of your death will quickly be followed by the need to organise your funeral…and if you haven’t made it clear to your closest friend or family member, who will be the one organising your funeral, and what are to be the key features of it, you may well be sowing the seeds for a dispute.

Our experience suggests the more direction you provide about how your estate is to be managed following your death, the less likely it is that a dispute about your funeral arrangements will arise amongst your family.

It is true that if you have a Will you may well have set out all of your wishes, including how your body is to be disposed of. The problem with such a direction is that, unless you share it with the executor of your Will prior to your death, the chances are that given the emotion your executor will be feeling upon and immediately following your death, they are unlikely to turn their mind to the content of your Will until after your funeral. This potential problem is of course easily solved. Have a discussion with your executor ASAP and let them know not only that they are the executor of your Will and where your Will is kept, but also any preferences you have in relation to your funeral and the disposal of your body (including your decision between burial or cremation)…it will make your executor’s job, much easier.

In these circumstances, if you have made your wishes clear and your executor knows what you want to have happen, you can alleviate a lot of stress and avoid potential disputes between your loved ones as to what you may or may not have wanted to occur.

Even if you have your wishes written into your will, if your body is due to be disposed of before your will is read by your executor/s, there is the chance your wishes may not be carried out. This eventuality may cause serious concern and angst at a sensitive time if your wishes were unable to be carried out, simply because they were not aware of what you wanted to have happen. To avoid this, we encourage people to discuss their wishes with their executor/s or at the very least, indicate that they have left directions for whether they want to be buried or cremated in their will.

Some people choose and plan their funerals well in advance of their death. Others may not wish to state a preference for how their body is to be disposed of, but in either case, you should take some time to make a decision about your funeral arrangements and record them appropriately so that the guesswork and stress associated with dealing with the disposal of your body is alleviated.

Things to consider:

  • If you don’t already have a will, you should prepare one.
  • If you already have a will, but haven’t updated it in a while, consider whether you have made it clear whether you wish to be buried or cremated.
  • If you have decided whether you want to be buried or cremated, have you told those people that will likely need to arrange your funeral? More importantly, have you made your wishes known in writing?
  • If you have already made a funeral plan, check that clear written directions are provided with respect to your wishes. Make sure whomever you have given the responsibility of putting your plan into effect knows what your wishes are
  • The costs involved in disposing your body are paid for by your Estate, and are paid for before any beneficiary receives their entitlement from your Estate. None of your assets will be distributed to the beneficiaries until your executor/s finalise your funeral arrangements in accordance with what you have stated in your Will.

Turnbull Hill Lawyers, and specifically Adrian Corbould and Mary Windeyer, have been named in the prestigious 2018 Doyles Guide.


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