Many people will be unaware that if a person decides to keep a loved one’s ashes at home then as the owner of those ashes they can direct in their Will what is to be done with them or in the absence of a specific bequest they will become chattels in their estate. The person who inherits the ashes can then dispose of them as they see fit.
In many cases this will not be a problem as it will often be the biological children of the deceased’s parents, who inherit the ashes of one parent upon the death of the other. However, in these days of second and third marriages and the extended families that develop as a result, it can lead to an outcome that the deceased would never have wished for and which tears families apart.
For example if a couple are both marrying for the second time and have children from their previous marriages and the wife passed away without making a Will, her ashes would become the property of her husband. He could then put them on his mantle piece for a few years and then pass away without giving any directions in his Will as to what should happen to his late wife’s ashes. If his children are to inherit the chattels of his estate then they will inherit their step-mother’s ashes and it becomes their decision, what to do with them, even if their wishes are contrary to the wishes of her own children.
Fortunately, such cases do not come to Court often, but when they have, the Court has been left with little choice but to allow those with the legal right to the ashes to dispose of them as they wish, even if this is contrary to the wishes of those who arguably have the moral right.
Care should be taken to ensure that you make a Will stating whether you wish to be buried or cremated, and if you do decide that your remains should be cremated then you should state who is to have your ashes and what they should do with them.