Rights and Obligations Relating to Funerary Methods, Funerals and Remains

Current project status

  • Initiation: Could include discussing scope and terms of reference with lead Government Department
  • Pre-consultation: Could include approaching interest groups and specialists, producing scoping and issues papers, finalising terms of project
  • Consultation: Likely to include consultation events and paper, making provisional proposals for comment
  • Policy development: Will include analysis of consultation responses. Could include further issues papers and consultation on draft Bill
  • Reported: Usually recommendations for law reform but can be advice to government, scoping report or other recommendations

Determining whether a person’s wishes about what happens to their body after death should be binding, and who should have rights and obligations in relation to bodies in other cases.

The problem 

At present the decisions that a person makes about what happens to their body after they die are not binding, although they may be afforded some weight. This strand of the Burial, Cremation and New Funerary Methods project will consider whether such decisions should be made binding, and will look at the different ways in which they could be given effect.  

The current rules about who has the right to make a decision about the body of a deceased person can result in disputes between family members. The project will consider who should have the right to make decisions about a body and the funeral, how disputes should be resolved, and who is responsible for making arrangements for a body after death.  

In addressing this issue, the project will also consider the legal status of human remains, including those which are created as a result of new funerary methods. 

There is also a lack of clarity when it comes to the standards which apply to public health funerals, which local authorities have a duty to conduct when it appears that no other suitable arrangements will be made. We have heard that this results in a patchwork of provision.  


The project 

We intend that this strand will begin at the end of 2025, and conclude at the end of 2027. A report will be published alongside a draft Bill which will also incorporate reforms to burial and cremation law.

Project details

Area of law

Property, family and trust law


Professor Nicholas Hopkins