Having a friend or family member die can be devastating, and the last thing any grieving family needs is an argument over what to do with their loved one’s ashes. Unfortunately, though, disputes can arise where there are differing opinions on the best way to hold, distribute or scatter the ashes. If the dispute can’t be resolved, family members can look to the law for guidance.

By law, the Executor of the Will (or Administrator of the estate/closest next-of-kin if the deceased died intestate) has control over the deceased’s remains and gets the final say on how they are handled, noting that a person cannot be cremated in the ACT if they have expressed any wishes to the contrary.

If a family member does not agree with the Executor’s decision on how to distribute the ashes, it is possible to apply to the Supreme Court to argue the case. The Court will typically consider whether the Executor’s decision as to disposal of the ashes is reasonable and appropriate in all the circumstances. When making a decision, the Executor ought to consider the deceased’s wishes, the wishes of the deceased’s relatives, the broader community and cultural values, and any other relevant practical considerations.

If you want to be cremated and wish to avoid any disputes over your ashes, there is one easy thing you can do for free: tell your family – and make it clear – what you want. Or, for a slightly more ironclad approach, record those wishes in writing in your Will and make sure you appoint an Executor who you trust to carry out your wishes.

MV Law’s Wills and Estates team can help you understand your rights and find a resolution to your dispute over your loved one’s ashes. If you have a dispute or would like to include your cremation wishes in your Will, contact us now.

If your loved one is being buried instead, read our article on burial disputes here.