What Will Happen to My Body after I Die?

29 June 2018

It may be an uncomfortable topic to think about, but it's an important one. Deciding how to dispose of a loved one's body can be a difficult and emotional decision for family members at an already difficult time. To make things easier for your loved ones, you can make your wishes clear so they know exactly what to do when the time comes.

One approach is to make a Will, in which you can state what you would like to happen to your body after you die, or you could take out a funeral plan which is then referenced in your Will. As your family may not have sight of your Will immediately after your death, you should also discuss your wishes with them to ensure they understand what you would want before they begin to make any funeral arrangements.

How Can I Make Sure My Wishes are Carried Out?

You can clearly set out in your Will what you would like to happen to your body after you die so that your loved ones know exactly what to do when the time comes.

In your Will, you can appoint an Executor (or multiple Executors) who will be the people responsible for dealing with your Estate. The role of Executor includes arranging your funeral, winding up your affairs and distributing your Estate to the people or organisations that you've said you want to inherit it (known as your Beneficiaries).

It's important to note that funeral wishes set out in your Will are not legally binding. So while this is an effective way of documenting your wishes, do bear in mind that your Executors can choose to ignore these wishes. If you have had open discussions with your loved ones and everyone is clear on what your wishes are, then it's more likely these wishes will be carried out after you die.

One way to secure your wishes is to put a funeral plan in place, which you have already paid for. This means that most of the decisions will have already been made and your family won't have much to decide on after your death. This also takes away the worry for your Executors of spending too much from the Estate to pay for the funeral. You can then include the details of your funeral plan in your Will, such as the reference number and the provider.

Who Decides What Happens to My Body if I Don't Have a Will?

If you die without a Will (known as dying "Intestate") then someone else will need to decide what should happen to your body. Without a Will, one or more Personal Representative/s will need to be appointed to carry out the duties that would otherwise have been carried out by the Executor. This includes arranging your funeral and deciding what will happen to your body.

This can cause upset and disagreements between family members if they have different opinions on what you would have wanted. If there are multiple people deciding what should happen to your body, and these people simply cannot agree, then in the worst case scenario the matter could be taken to the Court to decide.

These circumstances could cause your loved ones a significant amount of distress at what is likely to be an already challenging time. Even if you don't have a strong preference on what should happen to your body, it's wise to make a decision and include this in your Will for the benefit of your family. This way they won't have to guess what you'd want after you've gone.

What are the Options?

When people think of what will happen to their body after they die, many tend to think that there are two options: burial or cremation. There are actually a surprising number of options available, with some less traditional than others. These include environmentally friendly woodland burial and water-based alternatives.

The price can vary dramatically for different options, so it's worth bearing in mind that if you would like your body to be treated in a specific way, the costs for this will need to be covered either with money from your own Estate or by your friends and family.

Whatever you decide, if you set out your wishes clearly in your Will or take out a funeral plan that you reference in your Will, then your loved ones will know exactly what to do when the time comes.

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