Funeral Arrangements – the deceased’s wishes and scientific research or organ donation

21 November, 2016

In our first blog in this series we considered some general rules regarding funeral arrangements.  This week we are looking at what to do when the deceased has a specific wish regarding what should happen to their body after death.

The deceased’s wishes

If the deceased has expressed wishes about disposal of his or her body, either in a Will or in some other record, that gives the personal representatives a useful steer.  They are not, however, bound to follow those wishes.  Their obligation is to dispose of the body (otherwise they are committing an offence) but they can take their own, or other people’s, views into account. 

41379659 - quill pen, will, writing.

If the personal representatives do decide to do something other than the deceased’s wishes, they need to bear in mind that only reasonable costs will be allowed out of the estate.  If they follow the deceased’s wishes as set out in the Will, or have the agreement of the residuary beneficiaries, this is less of a concern. 

Donating the body for scientific research or organ donation

If the deceased has left written and signed consent to donate his or her body for medical or scientific purposes, or for organ donation, that is enough to make it lawful to dispose of the body in that way.  The deceased’s wishes usually take precedence over family members’ views – and doctors can insist on the donation – but, if the family objects very strongly, the doctors can also decide to accept those views over the deceased’s wishes. 

If there is no evidence that the deceased did, or didn’t, want his or her body used in this way, the person with responsibility for disposing of the body can decide what to do.  If they want to donate the body, or organs, they must first make reasonable enquiries to check whether the family object.

Further help

If you would like more information about what you should do if you are responsible for dealing with a deceased person’s body or are unable to agree what should happen to a body, please contact Philip Youdan at  For further information about Will disputes and disputes involving trusts and estates please click here to view our Guide to Will Trust and Estate Disputes.

In our next blog in this series we will consider who has the right to make decisions regarding funeral arrangements, particularly when there is a disagreement.

(Part 2 of 4 blogs)