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Sunday, January 20, 2019

McDonald's, fancy dress, and a VW: Britons are doing death differently

I recently read an article in that talks about how the funeral industry is changing. Apparently as much as 40% of the population in Britain wants their final send-off to be something other than the traditional funeral. Some of the examples given in the article, which you can read by clicking here, include undertakers wearing red clown noses, VW camper vans instead of hearses, and attendees at the funeral being asked to wear bright colours instead of black.

I haven't seen a request for change to this extent in my own practice, but I live in a place that cherishes its cultural traditions, including those touching on death. Not that I haven't seen a few unusual final wishes lately. One client wants a full Viking funeral. Another wants to be cremated and  her ashes put in a paper bag to be tossed off Signal Hill (into the Atlantic ocean). I have also seen a few trends emerge, such as the decline of open casket viewing, the popularity of cremation over burial, and an increased willingness to donate organs.

What has  not changed is that whether you want something traditional, something completely weird, or something in between, you have to make those wishes known.

It's possible to include your wishes for your send-off in your will. Most lawyers will say that there is no point putting these instructions in your will because your will probably won't be opened until long after your body has been dealt with. To some extent, I agree. However I decided some years ago that I would begin putting the wishes into wills, for one simple reason: if there is a dispute about what to do with your body, your wishes can be known by reading your will.

If it's a dispute among the kids about what Mom or Dad wanted, seeing it in black and white in the will should resolve the issue.

Having these instructions in your will won't win a legal battle on their own. Your executor has the legal right to make whatever arrangements for your final disposition that he or she believes are appropriate, no matter what the will says. However, my experience is that in the vast majority of cases, executors and family alike want to honour those wishes, as long as they know what they are.

The attached photo of a "Christmas in July" themed funeral accompanied the article in and is credited to Co-op.


  1. Another wants to be cremated and her ashes put in a paper bag to be tossed off Signal Hill (into the Atlantic ocean).[....]

    I am all for it. I want my ashes to be tossed into a well known river so that I might travel and see the world. People should rejoice, after all, many of us are going to a better place, the kingdom of the creator.

    1. Several people have expressed to me a similar idea regarding seeing the world via their ashes being put into the water or the wind.



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