When you meet a client, you never know exactly what to expect. All clients are different in their own way, and they all have particular wishes in mind when making their will and it is our job to be understanding and sensitive to this. In this edition of Did you know? we are going to look at specifying funeral wishes in a will.
The important point
The most important point regarding funeral wishes that must be made to clients is that they are only wishes. Any funeral wishes specified in a will are only a wish and no one is legally bound to follow them to the letter. Following the funeral wishes is more of a respectful decision for the family to give the testator the send-off they desire.
In most cases, following the death of a loved one, looking for their will is not the first task that comes to mind, or even the second. The will may not be looked at until after the funeral.
What other advice can we give?
It is highly advisable that the client informs their loved ones of any funeral wishes they have. This way, if the will is either lost or not picked up until later, then the funeral can still proceed as the deceased wished.
Another option is for the client to have a funeral plan in place and ensuring the family are aware of the plan and where to find the paperwork for it. Having a funeral plan in place will also assist the family with funeral costs, and if the client wished, details of the plan can be referenced in the will.
The client could also be advised to state their funeral wishes in a letter of wishes and store this in a safe place. Again, they would need to make sure that their loved ones are aware of its location. This will allow the client to update their wishes on paper whenever they choose without having to rewrite their will.
Why include this in the will?
To some clients, seeing their wishes in a legal document is as important as the distribution of their estate, whether they wish to state what kind of flowers should be there, the music that is to be played at the funeral, or if the funeral is to follow particular religious customs.
This could also be followed by naming a location for the funeral to take place, and exactly what is to happen with the remains, for example where the body should be buried, or where the ashes are to be scattered. Details such as this can be very sentimental. The testator can request as much, or as little detail in their will as they like as long as they are aware that the wishes are not binding as previously mentioned.
When the executors are arranging the funeral, they may be asked if the will contains any wishes which may encourage them to seek the will and follow those directions.