What happens to your body when you die?
Did you know that from the 20th May 2020 all adults in England will be considered to have agreed to be an organ donor when they die unless they have recorded a decision not to donate or are in one of the excluded groups?
When someone passes away, one of the questions people might ask is “what will happen to the remains of my loved one?”. Unfortunately in times of high emotion, this question can cause family members to argue and disagree about what to do with someone’s body.
You might ask, who owns a dead body? The law states that a body is not something one can sell or gift. Scientific and medical organisations are permitted to receive donated bodies for medical or scientific purposes.
Instead of ownership, certain people hold a "right of possession" such as a personal representative (an executor or administrator). Those holding “a right of possession” are under a duty to dispose the remains.
A local authority such as a hospital have the power to detain a body from those with a “right of possession” and a hospital may not release if the body is infectious or contaminated. Also, a coroner can detain a body to determine the cause of death until after an examination is complete. If the deceased left a Will, then the named Executors have the "right of possession."
This can be controversial as the deceased may not have appointed their spouse as an Executor. In this case, there is potential for a husband or wife to have no say over the arrangements and the Executor can overrule them. In most cases the Executors will work together with family members.
So what if you die without leaving a will? In these cases, the person who has priority on intestacy would take possession of the body. For instance, in a case where a child has died (without leaving any issue), the child’s parents would normally be entitled to take possession of the body.
If there is a conflict about the validity of a Will, the parties to the conflict have the option of applying to court for directions if nobody can agree on how to dispose the body.
So make sure to get a real lawyer to draft your will! At Garden House Solicitors we include directions for Executors to set out wishes for what happens to your body when you die into our Wills and we are here to help you 7 days a week.
Don’t put off making your will any longer and contact us today on 01992 422128.