A recent Toronto Life magazine article, “The New Death Etiquette” examines mourning in the 21st century. The new death etiquette includes multicultural hybrid funerals and intricate grieving rituals. Many funerals now are elaborate functions designed to reflect the individual personality of the deceased person. As stated in the article, there is no such thing as a standard burial these days.
Most of us probably do not like to think about our funeral and final resting place. However, when it comes time to preparing a Will, many individuals will ask their lawyer to include burial instructions, such as a wish for cremation or to be buried in a particular cemetery. It may come as a surprise to learn that in Ontario, such instructions are not binding on the estate trustee. It is the estate trustee who has the right and obligation to bury a deceased person, even in the face of objections from family members. The authority for this comes from an English case decided over 100 years ago, Williams v. Williams (1882), 20 Ch. D. 659, where it was held that there is no property in a dead body, and so a person cannot by will dispose of their own dead body. An estate trustee, however, has the right to custody and possession of a deceased’s body until it is properly buried.
Have a great day!
Bianca La Neve
A few of our past blogs discussed eco-friendly or other alternatives to a natural burial. (See Eco-Funerals – Green to the Grave and Natural Burial.) In researching an issue regarding cremation and the scattering of ashes, I came across yet another alternative: resomation.
“Resomation” is described as “an environmentally responsible, flameless, water based ‘biocremation™’ which sympathetically returns the body to its constituent elements.” In the process, which involves alkaline hydrolysis, the body is placed into a special vessel containing a pool of water and potassium hydroxide, which is heated to a high temperature under pressure. This dissolves the body into its chemical components, leaving only calcium phosphate bone ash. In addition, any mercury fillings and prosthetics remain intact, and can be safely removed.
The web site “Ecogeek” described the process as “The Greenest Way to Die”, and notes that the process does not release harmful mercury vapours, and only uses 90 kWh of energy, compared to 250 kWh for a normal cremation.
The company behind resomation describes the process as “accelerating natural decomposition”.
It does not appear that the process is available in Canada yet.
Thank you for reading.
"It’s unacceptable to the average person that you can just turn up with a bunch of heavies and steal the coffin."
Coen brothers? Nope. No, not Tim Burton either. In fact, this is a statement put forth by an MP in New Zealand after the third case of body snatching in less than a year.
As reported in the BBC news yesterday, the body of a 76-yr old woman was hijacked right out of the back of the hearse by four carloads of people including her estranged daughter. The bizarre, but not unprecedented, scene sparked a bitter family row over the deceased’s last wishes with respect to her funeral arrangements. The deceased had been married to a Maori man but separated from him in the 1970s. Clashes over where people are buried are apparently not uncommon in Maori society, particularly in marriages of mixed descent (e.g. Maori and European).
Incredibly, a spokesman for police national headquarters said they had limited power to intervene: "Body snatching is not against the law" since, in contrast to Ontario, a body cannot be legally owned in New Zealand. The recent cluster of body snatching cases may lead to an overhaul of New Zealand law regarding who owns a body.
David M. Smith
Environmental consciousness is spreading, and is making its way into the realm of estates.
There is a growing movement towards “natural burial” or “eco-cemeteries”, and away from more traditional practices such as a conventional burial or cremation. Both of these traditional practices are said to have adverse environmental effects that can be avoided through natural burial.
Conventional burial normally involves the use of formaldehyde, a potential carcinogen. Vast amounts of steel, wood and cement are involved in the burial process. Cemeteries are often simply fields of grass, with grave markers, that require watering, mowing, pesticides and herbicides.
As for cremation, the process requires huge amounts of natural gas. Emissions from crematories contain hazardous materials.
In natural burial, the body is prepared without use of chemical preservatives such as embalming fluids, and the body is buried in a biodegradable casket or shroud. The physical layout of the cemetery is distinct in that traditional grave markers are avoided, and the grave markers are designed to blend in with the landscape. Pesticides and herbicides are avoided.
For more information, visit the Natural Burial Co-operative website at http://www.naturalburial.coop/
According to their website, the Natural Burial Co-operative is currently working to establish Canada’s first natural burial preserve.
The movement still appears to be in its infancy; however, interest in the concept of natural burial is growing.
Have a great weekend.
Listen to Funeral Considerations
This week on Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, Ian and Suzana discuss the considerations and responsibilities of estate trustees at the time of a funeral.
Estate Planning Considerations in the Context of Married and Unmarried Spouses – Hull on Estate and Succession Planning Podcast #54
Listen to "Estate Planning Considerations in the Context of Married and Unmarried Spouses"
Read the transcribed version of "Estate Planning Considerations in the Context of Married and Unmarried Spouses"
During Hull on Estate and Succession Planning Episode #54, Ian and Suzana discuss how to avoid Will drafting problems when creating beneficiary designations for insurance trusts.
They also discuss the importance of including funeral arrangements in your Will, and the various Provincial approaches to the revocation of wills after marriage and after a divorce.