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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Executor's job to make burial or cremation arrangements

The latest celebrity estate to make headlines is that of Gary Cole. I notice that one of the big issues on this estate is the debate over disposition of his remains. I understand that Mr. Cole had expressed a wish that he be cremated. I also understand that he named an executor in his Will. Read the story here.

In Canada, the executor makes the decision about disposition of remains. This sometimes takes people by surprise, as they assume that the next of kin have the right to make that decision. Legally however, the executor can make a decision that is not at all what other family members want. This is just one consideration in your choice of executor. If you talk about your wishes with the person you plan to name as your executor and you get a response that is along the lines of "no way would I ever do that", then you have a problem.

In practice, most executors are either a close family member (a spouse or child) or if not, they are folks who ask the close family members for their thoughts before making final arrangements for the remains. When a dispute does arise, it's an emotionally-charged argument for everyone.

I like to see individuals express their wishes for their remains in their Wills. I know the wishes are not binding on the executor. I know that often arrangements are already made before anyone reads the Will. But I like the idea anyway because when there is controversy over what to do with the remains, the family can stop speculating about "what he would have wanted" and simply read his wishes in the Will.


  1. If the instructions for disposition are held in the will, and the will is located in a safety deposit box, decisions regarding disposition may need to be made before the safety deposit box is opened and the will is read.

  2. Yes, that's true, and you'll notice I mentioned that in the last paragraph of my post. I hope that people let their executors know what they want, for the very reason you mention. My point was simply that making funeral arrangements can be an emotional experience, and if an argument breaks out, the Will that expresses a preference can be the way to resolve the dispute.

  3. I am wondering about the grave stone who makes the decision for that. I know what my father wanted but the executors tell me what they want and since they are executors they feel they have the right to choose. I really want to give dad what he wanted so can life be so unfair I can't do what he wanted?

    1. Hi Rita,
      I can see how it might feel very unfair not to be able to do what you truly believe your father wanted. Try to remember also that your father wanted these people to be his executors, and wanted them to make decisions for him after his passing.


  4. I was the sole beneficiary of a friends will.
    Do I have the right to know where he was
    buried? or cremated? The executors refuse
    to tell me? thank you

  5. No, you do not have a legal right to that information. I can't imagine why the executor is refusing to tell you. There is obviously a story there!


  6. Hello. Here's what happened: The executor wants no part of the deceased funeral,cremation, or remains, and signs over that responsibility to someone else because they do not want to pay the bill . That other person then completes that responsibility and pays the cost. When the will is probated, is the executor then responsible to repay that person the costs incurred?? The death of a beloved family is bad enough, without someone being this callous. Please advise as to what recourse there is. Thank-you.


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