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Adrian: I wish for my body to be pushed out to sea and set on fire like my ancestor, Garbold the Viking.

Hello, I’m Adrian Corbould, Accredited Specialist in Wills & Estates at Turnbull Hill Lawyers with the Battle of Wills series where I talk about contested estates and wills generally.

We’ve talked at length how a will maker can put in their will how they want their assets to be divided and express how they wish for their body to be disposed of.

Around the world, there are many legal means to dispose of one’s body. For example, in the Himalayas, there’s sky burial where a body is carried up a mountain and left to the elements. In India, a body can be burned in a funeral pyre and the remains placed in the river Ganges, and there’s also mummification.

I’ll take you back to the example I gave before about my wish for my body to be placed on a boat, pushed out to the ocean, and set on fire, an old Viking tradition. There’s 440 deaths in Australia every single day. Now, can you imagine the complications that would arise if everyone’s executor had to carry out these very specific means of body disposal. It would be manic.

In New South Wales, there’s really three means by which a body can be disposed of.


First one is burial, mainly in the earth. That’s the most common. A body can be buried in a vault. That’s even less common because of the expense of all that goes with that. Also, it can be buried at sea, but that’s very, very rare. Have to meet a lot of criteria.


The second one is cremation. That’s where a body is burned in a crematorium. Cremation is very highly regulated mainly to minimise criminal activity of disposal of bodies illegally.

Organ Donation

The third way is organ donation where someone leaves their body with the intent that their organs be used to help those who live beyond them live or be used for science. Afterwards, the body is generally cremated.

Now, linking it back again, you can put in your will how you want your body to be disposed of, but you also should keep in mind that your executor has 100% responsibility as to your body disposal and they will only do it if it is a legal means because if they do it illegally, they could be held criminally responsible. When preparing a will, it’s always best that if you mention how you want your body to be disposed of that you put it in a legal means, burial, cremation, with any other ancillary provisions.

There are several court cases each year over parties fighting over the means of a body disposal. These are generally where there’s been an intestacy, no will, where there’s been no instruction as to who the executor is or the means of burial. You’ll have different interested parties, could be a spouse or children fighting over the means of burial whether that be on traditional lands or in a traditional means to a culture. Those cases are very expensive, drawn-out, generally could have been avoided if a valid will had been left specifying a legal means of burial.

So, when preparing your estate planning, don’t just think of oneself, think of those who have to carry out your wishes thereafter, your executor and your family.

I hope this has been of some interest. Talk again next time.

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