Estate Trustee’s Duties: Funeral Arrangements and Disposition of the Body

It’s important to know that including burial and funeral arrangements in your Will does not make them legally binding.

An estate trustee has many important duties including making funeral and burial arrangements for the deceased. While there are no property rights to a human body, an estate trustee has a right to possession of the deceased’s body in order to make final arrangements for it.   

So long as the estate trustee acts reasonably, he or she has complete discretion to decide all aspects of the final arrangements. This includes decisions from the type of funeral service to the inscription on a grave marker.

An estate trustee has three legal obligations when planning final arrangements:

  • to dispose of the remains in a dignified manner;
  • they must dispose the body in a way that is consistent and suitable to the deceased’s estate. In other words, the funeral cost needs to be reasonable in relation to the value of the estate; and
  • to inform the deceased’s family about the arrangements.

There are some legal limits to an estate trustee’s authority to deal with the body. For instance, the deceased during their lifetime or a family member may consent to donate the body or certain organs under the Trillium Gift of Life Network Act. A coroner may take possession of the body to conduct an investigation into the cause of death. Also, the estate trustee has no right to exhume the body after burial.

In many cases the Will isn’t located until after the funeral has occurred. You may consider communicating your final wishes to your estate trustee so that they can honour your intentions. You can also consider prearranging your funeral.

Thank you for reading.

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