Law Commission to consider reform programme about funerals

Law Commission to consider reform programme about funerals

The Law Commission has recently announced that it will be considering a reform programme about the disposal of bodies and funeral wishes following the case of the late Paul Morigi.  The case of Williams v Williams [1882] makes it clear there is no right to ownership of a body and you cannot dispose of your own body in your will – any funeral wishes in a will are exactly that, a wish.  The right about deciding funeral wishes lies with the executors of the will or, if the deceased dies intestate, then in accordance with the order of priority for obtaining a grant. 

Paul married his second wife in England at the age of 92, after being married to his first wife for 60 years living with her and their two children in America.  After his death, his daughter obtained an injunction preventing the executors of her father’s estate from burying him in England which his second wife had requested.  His daughter said her father wanted to be returned to America to be buried in the family plot.  The case highlighted the lack of clarity which has prompted the review by the Law Commission. 

The difficulty with Paul’s circumstances was determining where he was most closely connected, England or America.  It took over a year and a plea from the judge for settlement before Paul’s body was returned to America for burial.

The Law Commission recognises that the current law does not enforce the deceased’s wishes about the funeral arrangements which has led to the courts considering disputes under an uncertain legal framework.