I have just been reading a relatively new case from the Supreme Court in Townsville where the court was called upon to make orders for funeral arrangements for a deceased person.

One of the reasons that the court was called upon to make orders, was that the deceased did not have a will. Generally, executors appointed in the will will have the deciding call when it comes to family disputes about funerals.

In the new case, the deceased died with no will, leaving nine surviving children, who disagreed about funeral and burial arrangements for their father. The estate was very small.

The legal principles that apply are many, but ultimately there is no standard approach or hard and fast rule that can be formulated and applied when determining burial disputes. because we are focused on resolution by agreement we would encourage a “sit down” between the disputing family members to work out an agreed way forward. But of course, that does not always work.

A range of factors will be taken into account including the deceased’s own wishes, the wishes and sensitivities of close living relatives, the costs of burial and other logistical issues and considerations, and cultural and religious considerations.

In the judgment, the presiding judge noted that his conclusion would plainly upset many of the family, but because the problem is really insoluble in one sense, the court can only make a decision, and indicate regret that it will cause pain to any family member wanting a different outcome.

Whilst having a will in place would not necessarily provide a certain outcome, in most circumstances, the appointment of an appropriate executor does avoid disputes of this nature.

If you are interested, you can read the decision: https://archive.sclqld.org.au/qjudgment/2018/QSC18-140.pdf