Whose Responsibility Is It to Arrange a Funeral and Who Takes Ownership of the Deceased’s Ashes?

It is not uncommon to find families disagreeing on the way a deceased loved one should be memorialised. The added dimension of second family, or blended families, have increased the potential for conflict. However, more often than not, even if family members agree with cremation, it is the fate of the ashes that then becomes the point of conflict.

Whose responsibility is it to organise a funeral?

If there is a valid Will and you are an Executor named in the deceased’s Will, it is your responsibility to make the funeral arrangements for that person. However, you may find yourself in a difficult situation by having to make decisions based on vague, or limited information, when it comes to arranging the deceased’s funeral and family members may have opinions on what the funeral arrangements should be. This can cause conflict. 

If there is no valid Will, the responsibility for arranging the deceased’s funeral will be in accordance with the order of priority as outlined in the Intestacy Rules. This means that the responsibility to make the funeral arrangements will fall to family members in the following order:

  • The surviving spouse or civil partner of the deceased.
  • The deceased’s children.
  • The deceased’s parents.
  • The deceased’s siblings and so on.

It is important to note from the above list that the deceased’s co-habiting partner or children of the partner are not included. If you have been in a long-term relationship with the deceased but are not married or in a civil partnership then you will not have a right to make any funeral arrangements unless the deceased has made a Will and has named you as an Executor.

Does making a Will help with Funeral Arrangements?

Making a Will, which leaves specific instructions regarding a persons’ wishes for their funeral, can help to avoid family disputes, but it should be understood that funeral wishes made in a Will are not legally binding and the Executor has license to make or change any funeral arrangements as they deem appropriate. This means that the Executor will have the final say, which can lead to family disputes but can also allow the Executor to work closely with the family members to ensure that the funeral arrangements give consideration to everyone’s individual wished for the funeral.  

Who has ownership of a deceased person’s ashes?

In law, a person’s body is not considered property and therefore it cannot be owned, and this extends to the ashes of a deceased. The person expected to take possession of the ashes is the Executor (if the deceased left a Will), or the highest ranked next of kin inline with the Intestacy Rules if no Will has been left.

However, it is often the case that the funeral undertakers or the crematorium will release the ashes to the person who delivered the body up for cremation and signed the application for cremation. The person who delivers the body for cremation may not always be the Executor or Administrator, which ultimately can lead to a dispute between that person and the Executor or Administrator as to who should take possession of the ashes.

Picture of an urn containing ashes. Stood among red roses with mourners in the background.

Resolving Disputes

If there is a dispute between Executors and family members regarding the deceased’s funeral (and ultimately ashes) then, if an agreement cannot be reached, the Court can be asked to decide who is entitled to possession of the ashes. This however, not only has significant cost implications given the urgency of such applications, but can also cause irreparable damage to family relations at such an upsetting time for all. It is therefore far better to avoid issuing Court proceedings by having discussions between the parties to try and resolve the dispute, or enter into Mediation which can be a fast, effective, and cheaper way of resolving such disputes.

Contact us

☎️ Call our Wakefield office on 01924 290 029
☎️ Call our Garforth office on 0113 246 4423
☎️ Call our Sherburn in Elmet office on 01977 350 500
☎️ Call our Mapplewell office on 01226 339 009
☎️ Call our Ossett office on 01924 586 466

The content of this blog post is for information only and does not constitute formal legal advice and should not be relied upon as advice. Thornton Jones Solicitors Limited accepts no liability for any such reliance upon this content. Where the post includes links to external websites, Thornton Jones Solicitors Limited accepts no responsibility for the content of such sites. Any link to a third-party website should not be construed as endorsement by Thornton Jones Solicitors Limited of any content, products or services which are outside our direct control.

Online Enquiry Form

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.