We all have different thoughts about what we would like to happen to our body upon death. This blog considers the options and outlines some recommendations if you have very specific wishes in this regard. Check out our part 2 for information on specific scenarios from the legalities around scattering ashes to donating your body to medical research.

1. Confirm instructions within your will as to what you want to happen to your body when you die

You can specify your wishes regarding your body and funeral within your will as a formal death declaration; though, it is not a requirement. Alternatively, within your will, you could appoint someone, such as your executor(s), to decide and carry out any decisions in this regard. You may also wish to put a letter of wishes in place to sit alongside your will. A letter of wishes is a not a binding document but serves to guide your executors on any specific wishes. It can be easily updated in the future if your wishes change and can also include other wishes related to your will beyond funeral instructions. If you do not make a death declaration, the law under s65 of the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016 dictates that your "nearest [living] relative" is empowered to make arrangements for your body.

2. Talk openly about your body on death

We recommend you hold discussions about what you wish to happen to your body with your family and/or future executors. While it can feel taboo or morbid to talk about, it is important to discuss your wishes with your loved ones. Ensure they know your intent. Also, discuss where they can find the documentation outlining your wishes.

3. Ensure you have made preparations

Make preparations for what you wish to happen. This can range from reserving a cemetery plot or getting in contact with your chosen university to donate your body to medical research. Just because you state it within your will, it does not automatically mean this is permitted and/or it will happen – separate arrangements may need to be made.

4. Ingather the paperwork

Keep the documents relating to your wishes in a safe place and inform your executors or family where the documents are located. Generally, you should have a copy of your will (the original will being kept by your solicitor), birth certificate, any marriage or civil partnership certificates, any documents relating to your pension and other death benefits, a list of all your personal assets, your NHS medical card, and any letters of wishes in a safe, yet locatable place. Depending on your wishes, there may be other documents you wish to retain, such as your passport or consent papers to medical research.

If you would like to gain specific advice on making arrangements for your body upon death, including to review your existing will and/or letter of wishes or to put a new will or letter of wishes in place, please get in touch with your usual Brodies contact.


Sarah Keir