A Modern Framework for Disposing of the Dead

Current project status

  • Initiation: Could include discussing scope and terms of reference with lead Government Department
  • Pre-consultation: Could include approaching interest groups and specialists, producing scoping and issues papers, finalising terms of project
  • Consultation: Likely to include consultation events and paper, making provisional proposals for comment
  • Policy development: Will include analysis of consultation responses. Could include further issues papers and consultation on draft Bill
  • Reported: Usually recommendations for law reform but can be advice to government, scoping report or other recommendations

Bringing the law governing how we dispose of the bodies of our loved ones when they die into line with modern needs.

The problem

The law governing how we dispose of the bodies of our loved ones when they die is unfit for modern needs.

While we often think of the choice as being between burial and cremation, new methods of disposal are being developed which are completely unregulated here.

Further, the legislation governing more traditional methods of disposal is outdated, piecemeal and complex.

The law does not ensure that a person’s own wishes as to the disposal of their remains are carried out, leading to disputes where family members disagree. Disputes also arise as to entitlement to a person’s remains.

The project

This project came out of our 13th Programme of Law Reform.

We will seek to create a future-proof legal framework that brings the existing law into line with modern practices and provides a regulatory framework for safe and dignified new processes which may in future be made available in England and Wales.

The project would also seek to provide greater certainty that a person’s wishes about what happens to their body following death are respected. The project will be concerned to ensure that the public interest in this sensitive area of law is properly respected.Once started it is expected to take between 2-3 years.

The precise terms of reference for the project will be agreed with Government at the point when the Commission is able to start this work

Next steps

This project will start as and when resources allow.


Project details

Area of law

Property, family and trust law


Professor Nicholas Hopkins