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Legal and Contract Service Ltd

Who Owns Your Body?


When it comes to organising a funeral, there are many people who may make a claim to the rights of your body; the person who paid, next of kin, the person signing the cremation form, or the coroner.


And how do you decide between them?


According to, 25% of all deaths in the UK lead to family disputes and arguments over the deceased’s final resting place.


Out of these disputes, nearly 50% peaked whilst the funeral was in motion.


So when this happens, who actually has the right over your body? Below are a few starting points:


Nobody owns a body.


The main consideration is the first point that nobody owns a body (legally “no property in a corpse”). It cannot be gifted in a Will, bought or sold. However it may be donated for scientific research.


Being unable to dispose of the body via a Will has been up for debate under the Human Rights Act 1998 in relation to respecting family life so this may change in the future.



Possession of the body falls with the person whose duty it is to dispose of it.


The right to this possession starts at the time of death. It is commonly considered that this be next of kin, spouse or partner, or close family, however this isn’t always the case:


  • A hospital has rights to detain a body if it is said to be infectious,
  • The coroner has first rights to temporary possession of a body to determine cause of death,
  • In the case of no Will, it is the person who has priority of intestacy,
  • In the case of a minor, the parents have a duty to organise a funeral.



In the case of cremation, the ashes must be passed onto the person who originally brought the body.


This is usually the Executor of the Will. 


Unfortunately this area is hazy in the eyes of the law, and it is constantly debated whether ashes are actually contained under the first point, and cannot be owned.


As there is no legal definition of ashes, this may be left to the crematorium to decide.


The saving grace here, is that there are preventative measures in place to avoid a body being cremated without the close family’s knowledge.



As with most family matters, these disputes usually cannot simply be resolved by considering the above points. Some cases result in a Court ruling, and some end in a family divide.


Act now and take out a Dignity Funeral Plan to relieve the stress and arguments that could arise regarding your funeral. This is easy and, with the flexible payment terms it makes it very cost effective


For advice on Wills, Probate, and funeral plans, contact LCS NOW on 0345 017 8250.