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 instructions for your funeral and burial? Or have you been involved in a family dispute about the funeral of a loved one?

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. The law emerged in 19th-century England, when cremation was unusual and the law presumed everyone desired a Christian burial. Obviously, this is no longer the case, and the inquiry assumed that today’s Victorians, with their diverse cultural practices, complex family arrangements and support for individual choice, may want greater recognition of their wishes concerning their funeral, burial or cremation.

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 with those experienced in the area. 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.

Community Law Reform Projects are conducted in accordance with section 5(1)(b) of the Victorian Law Reform Commission Act 2000 (Vic), which empowers the Commission to initiate inquiries of general community concern, provided they are limited in size and scope. More about Community Law Reform can be found here.

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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

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