26 April 2022

For most of us planning our own funeral is something we would not wish to think about, but it can be an important issue in relation to writing a Will. As Solicitor Lucy Horsington explains.

When I take Will instructions from a client, one of the more challenging decisions for them to consider is in regard to their funeral wishes.

Their wishes are just that, a wish for their executors to consider and as such are not binding. Contrary to popular belief, when you make a Will, you do not have the right to choose how your body is to be disposed, that is for your executors to decide. However, choosing who they wish to act as executor, coupled with an expression of wish in the Will, usually allows for their intended directions to be successfully actioned.

It is often common for extended wishes to be left in a side note which can go into as much additional detail about the funeral as required and in a more private personal fashion. This more informal note can be left with the Will held by the firm of solicitors but frequently, alternatively, can be left at home with the important paperwork, including a copy of the Will and details about the assets. It can be extremely helpful for the nearest and dearest to be made aware of the individual’s funeral wishes or know at the very least where this information can be located quickly to aid in the preparation of the funeral.

What’s more, it is becoming more common in recent years to sit down with your chosen funeral director and pre-plan (and pay!) for your funeral in advance thus removing the necessity for the family to make such decisions when they are already emotionally distressed.

A Will may leave a wish that the body be donated for medical science. Although the Human Tissue Act 2004 allows for a Will to provide consent to anatomical examination, such wishes can still be rejected so it is to be recommended that appropriate arrangements are made in advance with the specific medical organisation who will receive the body on death. Further, the body may need to be returned or disposed of respectfully after use and so the will direction should still express a burial or cremation direction.

Although a Will could previously provide consent to organ donation too, the rules were recently changed by the Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Act 2019 so that the opposite now applies. Provided you are 18 or over and have lived in England and Wales for at least 12 months, you will automatically be considered a potential organ donor under the new position of “deemed consent”. If you only wish to donate certain organs, then you can register such information as a donor with the NHS Organ Donor Register.

If you decide you wish to “opt out” of the deemed consent altogether then again this can be recorded via the NHS Organ Donor Register or also importantly in your Will. It is therefore crucial that you discuss this decision with family and friends so they are aware of your wishes and perhaps even provide them access to a copy of your will which can be used after you have died to demonstrate this intention.

For more information contact Lucy Horsington on 01935 814811,

View our Wills and Trusts services here.