Funeral and Remains Wishes


(This is an edited version of our Client Guide which provides general information and is made available to our clients to assist them to understand the use of a will to express wishes for funeral arrangements and handling of bodily remains. This is not intended to constitute legal advice, which by its nature is situation specific. If you have questions about a specific estate problem, you should consult a lawyer who will provide legal advice only after reviewing all the facts relevant to your situation before providing that advice, rather than relying on the general information provided in this Guide.


Funeral Wishes

People commonly use a will to express their wishes for their funeral arrangements. Such wishes may arise from a religious basis or merely a personal preference as to how the funeral is to be conducted.

Common wishes are for a service to be conducted in accordance with the practices of a particular faith or cultural custom. Open or closed casket preferences are also frequently expressed. Some people prefer that there be no memorial or religious service. Others provide for no viewing in an effort to reduce the burden on surviving family members.

In some cases, people wish to provide elaborate directions for the funeral service, including hymns and readings. We have also been asked to include instructions for post-funeral receptions and wakes. In cases where the wishes would result in costly expenditures from the estate, it is wise to set those out in the will to attempt as far as possible to protect the executor from criticisms from the beneficiaries that he or she has acted imprudently in making costly funeral arrangements that have the effect of reducing their inheritances.

The responsibility for making such arrangements rests with the executor or estate trustee. While executors who are not family members commonly consult with the family, the ultimate decision rests with the executor in cases of disagreement. It is important to ensure that you discuss your wishes with your family and executors to minimize additional emotional burdens at the time of death. Often the will is not even located or reviewed until after the funeral and without some prior knowledge that your will contains your wishes for your funeral, they may be overlooked.

If you have made arrangements for prepayment of your funeral expenses, you should advise your family and executor about them.


Human Tissue Gifts

After death, you may wish that bodily organs and tissues be donated to another person. When we had paper driver's licences, they contained a section that permitted you to execute a consent to use your body for transplantation or research purposes. The plastic licences do not. A will is now a convenient place to include such a consent. The statutory framework for such gifts is set out in the Trillium Gift of Life Act.

The consent may be for all research and transplantation purposes, or it may be limited to transplantation only. It is important that you communicate to your family and executor that you have included a human tissue gift consent in your will.


Burial or Cremation

Most people have a preference for either burial or cremation. A will can be used to communicate you wishes for disposition of your remains in the same fashion as your funeral wishes. Once again, the responsibility for making such arrangements rests with the executor or estate trustee. Family should be consulted but the ultimate decision maker is the executor.

If there is a family plot, crypt or other facility for burial of your body or interment of ashes, it is wise to provide such information in your will.

Many people wish their ashes to be scattered in a particular place or places. Such an act is likely a breach of the Environmental Protection Act in Ontario, but it is commonly done, nonetheless. Some cemeteries are now offering sprinkling areas. Some other jurisdictions take a more aggressive approach to enforcement of their prohibition. You should make enquiries to determine whether or not you are permitted to do so in that other jurisdiction before including such wishes in your will.

Consider the cost to your estate of sprinkling ashes in exotic locations or from airlplanes and ships. If family or friends are invited, be specific as to whether or not your estate is to pay for the travel and other costs of getting family and friends there.



Any questions? If you have any questions about use of a will to express funeral and bodily remains wishes, please contact a member of our Wills, Trusts and Estates group.

Hooey · Remus
Telephone: (416) 362-2051
Facsimile: (416) 362-3646
Suite 1410, 120 Adelaide Street
Toronto, Ontario M5H 1T1


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This page was originally created on January 6, 2005 and was last updated September 22, 2011.
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