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Making a Will – What are your Funeral Wishes?

Making a Will – What are your Funeral Wishes?

Making a Will – What are your Funeral Wishes?

When I meet with clients to take instructions for their Wills one of the questions I always ask is ‘What are your funeral wishes?’.  Most of the time it is something that they have not thought about beyond cremation or burial.  The reason for asking is that, for those who are left, it is important that they ‘get it right’. As solicitors, we are quite often contacted by family members checking if there are any funeral wishes set out in the Will. It is not crucial for you to express your wishes in the Will and you can always leave a side separate letter of wishes with your Will later, however a recent case which came before the courts has highlighted the importance of this again.

Jakimaviciute v HM Coroner for Westminster and Stanevience [2019]

In this case two daughters were in dispute over where their mother’s remains should be buried – in the UK or in her native home of Lithuania as per her wishes.  The delay meant that their mother remained unburied until the dispute was heard by the Court almost two years after her death in 2017 – during that time her body remained with the Coroner.

The question the Court was asked was which of the two daughters the body should be released to.  The law has long established there is no ‘ownership’ in a dead body – although the Executors named in the Will have the authority to make the funeral arrangements and dispose of the body. Ms Stanevience was Executor of her mother’s estate and proceeded to make arrangements to have her other cremated and the ashes to be scattered in a particular graveyard in her native Lithuania as per the wishes in her Will. An injunction was applied for by Mrs Jakimaviciute to stop the remains being released  to her sister as she wished the remains to be buried in the UK.

The Court confirmed the starting point would be the Executor however the Court had an inherent jurisdiction to authorise the release of the body to someone other than the Executor . In exercising their discretion, the Court would take in to account various factors  including the wishes of the deceased.  The deceased had left a detailed list of her wishes regarding burial of her ashes in Lithuania and had remained closely connected with the Country of her birth.  The Court ordered the remains should be released to Ms Stanevience as Executor to carry out the wishes of her late mother.

Remember, writing your Will is your chance to say what you want to happen to you and your assets after you are no longer here.  Disputes can and do arise – whether that is over the Will itself or as here, over funeral wishes.  A well drafted Will which includes detailed wishes may not stop a dispute arising but it could help settle a potential dispute before it gets to Court.


Although our offices are currently closed to clients we can arrange to meet you using electronic means including Zoom, facetime, skype and MS Teams to take your instructions for your Will. If you would like to speak to one of our private client team please call us on 03456 381 381