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Clare
Clare, Family Solicitor
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 34474
Experience:  I have been a solicitor in High Street Practise since 1985 and have specialised in Family Law for the last 10 years
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Who owns the ashes after a person dies intestate and no probate

Customer Question

Who owns the ashes after a person dies intestate and no probate papers/administrator has been issued/appointed?
Background information is: deceased died 3 years ago. Funeral directors had arrangements, bill, contract, etc signed in the name of one family member, a descendent/beneficiary of the deceased. Deceased was cremated. Disputes arose in the family. Funeral bill was left unpaid. The person named on the contract settled the bill and the ashes were released to the family member whose name was on the account/contract with the funeral directors. There is some dispute now as to whether the ashes themselves form part of the estate or not? There are a number of direct descendants of the deceased. Do the other descendants have a legal claim over the ashes? Or is legal ownership of the ashes assigned to the person who paid for them? Estate is yet to be wound up/administered.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Family Law
Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
Thank you for your question.
My name is ***** ***** I will do my best to help you
The ashes do not belong to anyone as legally they are still the person of the deceased and no one can own a person
However the person who paid the Bill is entitled to possession of the ashes in the absence of a named executor.
I hope that this is of assistance - please ask if you need further details
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thank you Clare.

If probate is to be assigned to a solcitior (which we are in the process of deciding at the moment in order to settle the dispute) do the ashes then have to go to the solicitor so that the final resting place must be agreed? Or does the person who paid the bill retain possession of the ashes regardless of who is given probate responsibilities?

Basically, we want to agree to an impartial solicitor who can settle the estate (finally) but would like to lay the ashes to rest independently, and don't want to go ahead and do that if legally we will get into trouble for doing so..

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
No the Ashes are retained by the person who paid the bill - the Solicitor will have no claim on them
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi, thank you.

I want to be completely sure of this:

The solicitor for the other side has said that the ashes form part of the estate and that I must therefore hand them over to the solicitor who will be given administration responsibilities. Is this legally correct? And do I legally have to hand them over as the person who paid the bill?

It all seems to be confusing and very open to interpretation!

Thank you

Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Relist: We need to know where we stand asap!

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
No they do not form part of the estate - no one can "own" ashes - not even the Estate.
Since it appears that there is no ONE relative who is closer to the deceased than any other then the person who made the effort and arranged and paid for the funeral who is entitled to hold the Ashes
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Hi Clare. Your answers are very reassuring. Based on what you e said I have 3 points to clarify and I'm done:
1. Can you direct me to or tell me the statute that says the ashes do not belong to the estate?
2. If I retain the ashes and do not return them to the 'estate' may I still claim reimbursement of the cost of the funeral/cremation that I paid?
3. Is there any wording you might recommend I use to exercise my right to retain the ashes when I write to the solicitor who told me the ashes form part of the estate and that I must therefore hand them over?
Thanks!
Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
1 There is no statute - it is Common Law (in other words there has never been an Act Of Parliament concerning it
You can read more here
http://www.newsquarechambers.co.uk/files/Publications/TE135%20p04-08%20Evans-Gordon.pdf
The Australian law does NOT apply in the Uk
2. Yes you can
3. " I assume that you are in fact aware that it is not possible for anyone to "own"ashes and accordingly they do not "belong" to the Estate. I therefore intend to continue with my Trusteeship of them"
Clare