BBC approach Smith Partnership for expert comment on sensitive issue

The lawyers at Smith Partnership were pleased to offer the BBC news team expert legal comment with regard to recent case of a Derbyshire man, Russell Davison, who did not release his wife’s body to funeral director after her death.

Before her death on 21st April 2017, Mr and Mrs Davison decided to take a "natural" approach to her healthcare over a number of years, and decided to have her body remain in the family home until the funeral day.

Some people may find this an unusual thing to do, however this was always the way death was handled by previous generations in the UK. It is a more recent practise to hand the body over to the funeral directors to prepare the body for burial or cremation.

Jak Ward, Contentious trusts and probate lawyer at Smith Partnership, spoke to the BBC regarding the legality of Mr Davison’s actions. The starting position is that there is no property in a dead body. Certain classes of people have a right to possession of a dead body, and responsibility for disposing of it.  Jak commented: “It is not an offence to keep a body at home until the funeral as long as a death is reported to a GP and registered properly. When families approach us after a death, we always help them consider all the options with regard to both financial and practical requirements by law.

"Historically people would die at home and the body would be kept until the funeral, so this isn’t a new concept. We wish Mr Davison and his family all the very best for the future."

Cancer UK offer advice regarding this issue:

As long as a GP has been informed and the death has been registered within five days, a body can be legally kept at home before a funeral

A funeral director or nurse is required to wash the body

If the body is being kept at home for more than a few days, a funeral director may be required to embalm the body.

If you require legal advice regarding a similar issue please do not hesitate to contact us on 0330 123 1229.

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