It’s an uncomfortable question, but a question that arises surprisingly often when there is dispute over funeral arrangements.

The law says that no-one owns a body. This is a challenge when there are competing claims to the right to bury or cremate, or otherwise deal with a dead body.

Having a will is a great way to avoid many disputes, including disputes about funeral arrangements. Estate law provides that, generally, the person named as executor has the right (even a duty) to dispose of the dead body. The reason for this is that the costs associated with funerals, burial and cremation are the costs of the deceased person’s estate. There are sound public policy reasons for this principle – it is important that where possible bodies are properly dealt with.

But what happens when families do not agree?

And, this is often the case where there is no will but intestacy, where it is likely that there will be no-one with a clear right to administer the estate, and therefore to take care of funeral arrangements.

In a recent court case, a judge said: “no standard approach or hard and fast rule can be formulated and applied when determining a burial dispute”.

That comment provides an interesting challenge for those who practice in estate law. But it also provides some comfort for family members who feel that the “right” thing is not being done in regard to funeral arrangements for their loved one.