estate planning and funerals

Why a Will?

Estate planning isn’t the nicest of subjects.  So many people put it off, that the WA Public Trustee estimates that over 50% of us haven’t made a valid Will.

Dying without a Will can create chaos for your loved ones.  In addition to grief, they have to deal with complex paperwork relating to intestacy, uncertainties regarding inheritance laws and the difference of what the law says and what the deceased would have wanted to happen.

It is common for intestate estates to cause conflict, which can lead to years of legal dispute and money wasted on lawyers’ fees.

Even worse, if you die without a Will and don’t have any family in the categories of people entitled to inherit, your estate could go to the government.

Everyone should have a Will.  And a Will drawn up by a lawyer has the advantages of being drawn up correctly which should simplify the process of obtaining Probate and administering the estate.

Two subjects often included in Wills are directions regarding how your remains are to be handled.

Organ Donation

If you wish to donate your organs you must:

Medical staff check the Register to find out whether or not a patient wants to be a donor.  However, even if you have registered, your family will still be consulted.  If your family opposes donation a hospital may not proceed, because it would not want to cause distress to your family.

For that reason, it is very important that if you wish to donate your organs, you discuss this with your family so they understand your wishes.

Although it is not legally binding, inserting your wishes into your Will can help guide your family and provide confirmation of your wishes in case there is any uncertainty.  However, a statement in your Will cannot take the place of a discussion because a Will is often not read until after the funeral.

Funeral Arrangements

If you have strong feelings regarding how your body should be handled after you pass away, you need to discuss this with your family.  This could include not only issues of burial vs cremation and coffin vs natural earth burial, but also what kind of service you would like, such as whether the service is to be religious or secular and what sort of music or photos are to be used.

Natural earth burials are still fairly new to WA, but essentially involve burying a body in a biodegradable coffin or shroud without the use of any toxic chemicals to enable a more natural return to the earth without pollution.

Whilst it is not legally binding, it is often useful to include your wishes in your Will because it can provide some guidance to family.  Of course many families do not read a Will until after the funeral so you cannot rely solely upon expressing your wishes in a Will, but must also let your nearest and dearest know what you want.


It is easy to be squeamish about estate planning, but if you have strong feelings about how you want your remains to be handled or your estate distributed, then you need to discuss your wishes with your family and make sure you have a legal Will.

Even if you have a legal Will, if any major life events have taken place since (such as marriage, divorce or children) then we strongly recommend reviewing your Will to make sure that it is still legal and effective.


The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter.  Specialist legal advice should be sought about your specific circumstances. For more specific estate planning legal advice please contact us.


photo credit: Maryam (one bored chica) via photopin cc

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