Planning for your funeral is something that many of us are, understandably, not hugely keen to think about. There are several aspects, however, that it is certainly worth thinking about, and also recording your thoughts and wishes about, in advance so that any difficulties or disagreements may be avoided.
1. Who will deal with your funeral arrangements?
If you have a Will, your Executors will usually arrange your funeral although, depending who the Executors are, other family members or friends may also assist if that is agreed. Your wishes regarding funeral arrangements may be noted in your Will and can either be very detailed or more minimal (i.e. simply expressing your wish for either burial or cremation). Whilst not legally binding on your Executors or family, including such a clause in your Will can provide them with much welcomed guidance on your wishes, particularly if there are any specific instructions on aspects of the funeral service, scattering of ashes or such like.
2. You haven’t left a note of any funeral wishes; what then?
If you don’t have a Will, or haven’t noted your wishes regarding funeral arrangements in your Will, the provisions of the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016 provides a legal framework for funeral arrangements in Scotland. The Act sets out a hierarchy of individuals who may be classed as your “nearest relative” for the purpose of deciding on either a burial or cremation.
3. Your estate will cover the cost of your funeral, won’t it?
Depending upon your financial position, it may be possible for the cost of your funeral to be settled directly from your bank account before Confirmation (the Scottish equivalent of “Probate”) is obtained. This is often done in conjunction with your Executors and the wider administration of your estate. In some cases, it is, however, sometimes difficult to quickly ascertain the financial position of someone who has died and we would always request that Executors, or the person seeking to be appointed as Executor if there is no Will, bring as much paperwork regarding that to their initial meeting with us.
4. Pre-paid funeral plans
Funeral costs may, perhaps, be a more significant consideration in the current financial climate given the “cost of living crisis” facing many of us. You may be minded that your funeral be simple, or perhaps a more environmentally friendly process. It is also possible for a “private” cremation (i.e. an unattended cremation) to be carried out. Taking the simple step of setting your wishes out in your Will provides a degree of reassurance not only for you, but for those tasked with carrying out your final wishes. You may consider purchasing a pre-paid funeral plan, thus providing you with full control over the planning aspects of your funeral, whilst also ensuring that your funeral is fully paid during your lifetime which, of course, will greatly assist your family/friends. It removes any question as to who takes on responsibility for settling the final funeral bill. You may refer to your pre-paid plan within your Will so that your Executors are aware of its existence, and a copy of the plan may also be kept with your Will for reference.
5. Donation for medical research purposes
You may have a preference to donate your body for the purpose of medical research. This is something you may wish to take steps to arrange during your lifetime to ensure that all the necessary paperwork has been completed. Again, the instruction would be included within your Will and a copy of the necessary paperwork also be stored with your Will. It is also prudent to include a “back up” funeral instruction provision in your Will, just in case the universities are unable to accommodate the bequest at that time.
If you would like some more advice regarding making a Will, or updating your existing Will, or assistance dealing with an estate then please get in touch with one of the solicitors in our Private Client or Executries team who would be happy to assist.