The Rising popularity in cremation is increasing the amount of disputes over who gets custody of the ashes. Warring relatives have scattered ashes without consent or even flushed them down the toilet in order to maintain control of a loved ones’ final remains.

Lawyer Michael Smoult, a member of the Wills, Trusts & Probate Team has seen a 68 per cent increase in the number of people reporting underhand tactics in order to avoid letting the Executor take control of the deceased’s remains.

“Hopefully a person has left a clear and concise direction in their will of what should happen to their ashes,” says Smoult. “That way the executor will sort out the final arrangements after cremation. However we are seeing a huge increase in the number of people going to great lengths to make sure they get the ashes. A number of clients have reported that ashes are not always in the possession of their chosen party and I have heard that in one case the ashes have been flushed away – out of spite or control – before any decision could be made about their final resting place.”

More than three times as many Britons are wanting to be cremated as those wishing to be buried. One reason is thought to be because more people are seeing cremation as the cheaper option, the average price of a cremation being £3,894 whilst for a burial this is £5,446. Lack of land for burial is also said to be increasing popularity of cremation.

Many people now state in their will that they are opting for cremation, but this is a discretionary wish. It is then up to the executor to choose what is best to do. If there is no further information, they will have the discretion to decide how to dispose of the ashes.

Michael Smoult says an increased number of so-called blended families is fuelling a rise in rows over what happens to a relative when they die. “`In families with half siblings or step siblings there could be tensions, difficulties or simply a large number of people who all feel they should have priority over the ashes. There is no specific legislation restricting the way people dispose of ashes” adds Michael Smoult. “The only way to avoid underhand activities is to ensure that your executor knows what you want and follows your discretionary wishes in your will.”

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