Rachel Waller of our Contentious Probate team, and member of our ESG committee, welcomes the Law Commission’s review of “outdated” legislation governing existing methods of disposal of a loved one’s body.
In December 2022 the Law Commission, the statutory independent body that keeps the law of England and Wales under review and recommends necessary reforms, announced the launch of a review to bring “the law governing how we dispose of the bodies of our loved ones when they die into line with modern needs“.
Although the project is in its infancy and the Law Commission currently just setting out the scope of the review, I very much welcome the initiative. I have acted for clients involved in disputes which have arisen between close relatives or friends about the disposal of a loved one’s body, and am fully aware of how issues can escalate during such an emotional and distressing time. My colleague Tiggy Hawkesworth has previously written about the difficulties experienced here.
I note also that the review anticipates “the creation of a regulatory framework for safe and dignified new processes”. Given the commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions imposed on the UK government by the Climate Change Act 2008, as well as other environmental obligations, I look forward to the promotion of environmentally sound practices such as natural organic reduction (human composting). This method of disposition has been legalised in 6 US states since 2019, but is not yet permitted in the UK.
I will be following the progress of the project with great interest from the perspective of contentious probate as well as environmental concerns.
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The above is accurate as at 07 January 2023. The information above may be subject to change during these ever-changing times.
The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case-by-case basis.