Funeral and Burial Instructions

Project Status:

Tabled in parliament

Start Date:

25/06/2015

Tabled in Parliament Date:

09/02/2017

Reference

What will happen to your body when you die? Have you written funeral and burial instructions? Or have you been involved in a funeral dispute ?

This community law reform project, initiated in June 2015, came from a suggestion from a Victorian citizen whose family member was buried contrary to the deceased’s wishes, leading to dispute and rupture in the family.

Our video on funeral and burial instructions explains why they are often sources of family conflict, what the current law says about them, and how the law could change. (5 min 15 sec).

In its inquiry, the Commission considered the extent to which a deceased person’s wishes about their funeral, burial or cremation should be legally binding. Currently, the law gives the executor or likely administrator of a deceased person’s estate the right to decide what happens to the deceased person’s body, regardless of their wishes. This is based on the old common law rule that ‘there can be no property in a dead body‘.

In November 2015, the Commission produced a Consultation Paper outlining the issues, suggesting options for reform, and asking for public submissions. We received 39 submissions and conducted 31 formal consultations. We also conducted an online survey to find whether current law aligned with community expectations.

On 15 December 2016, the Commission released its report (available with other publications for download below), which recommended giving greatest weight to the stated wishes of the deceased and suggested a mechanism to ensure those wishes are carried out.

As of November 2022, the recomendations have not been implemented.

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Funeral and Burial Instructions

Who will decide what will happen to your body when you die? Many people think their funeral and burial instructions are legally binding – but they are not. This video looks at what happens when someone’s instructions are ignored, what the law says and how it could be changed.

Project Stage

  • Terms of reference received
  • Submissions and consultations
  • Submissions closed
  • Final Report
  • Tabled in parliament

Publications

Publication Date

14/12/2016

This report concludes a community law reform project considering whether Victorians should be permitted to leave funeral and burial instructions that are binding on the person with the right to control the deceased’s funeral and burial arrangements. It was tabled in Parliament on 9 February 2017.   Read More
Publication Date

14/12/2016

This report concludes a community law reform project considering whether Victorians should be permitted to leave funeral and burial instructions that are binding on the person with the right to control the deceased’s funeral and burial arrangements. It was tabled in Parliament on 9 February 2017. Read more
Publication Date

14/12/2016

This report concludes a community law reform project considering whether Victorians should be permitted to leave funeral and burial instructions that are binding on the person with the right to control the deceased’s funeral and burial arrangements. It was tabled in Parliament on 9 February 2017. Read more
Publication Date

05/05/2016

The Commission received the following submissions. Read more
Publication Date

09/11/2015

This consultation paper sets out the current law and issues regarding funeral and burial instructions. Read More
Publication Date

19/11/2015

This consultation paper sets out the current law and issues regarding funeral and burial instructions. Read more