Intestate: Dying Without A Will and How it Impacts Funeral Arrangements

Living without a will may relieve a person from having to think about their own mortality. Living without a will may also save a person some time and money. However, dying without a will can cause grave challenges and obstacles for those left behind.
Dying in intestate means that the deceased person did not leave a Will. A Will is a legal document that expresses the person’s wishes as to how their assets are to be distributed after their death. It also gives authority to the person(s) who can give instructions for funeral arrangements.

I pre-paid my funeral. Do I still need an Executor?

Even when a person pre-pays for a funeral, the funeral provider still requires permission from the Executor to move forward with those arrangements at the time of need. The Executor has the authority to augment or streamline those services as they see fit.

If there isn’t a Will, who can make funeral arrangements?

The courts can appoint an administrator to settle the estate and to make funeral arrangements. There is an order that is followed for determining who may give instructions when there is no Will.
  1. Spouse
  2. Adult Children
  3. Grandchildren
  4. Great-Grandchildren
  5. Parents
  6. Siblings
  7. Grandparents
  8. Other Relatives
Family members can work together when it comes to giving instructions, but if there is conflict, it is best to seek counsel from a professional.

What if I am legally married, but living with someone else?

Being legally married before death to a person of the same or opposite sex, makes the surviving spouse the leading authority on funeral arrangements. In the event of someone still being legally married but living in a conjugal relationship with another person may mean the deceased would be deemed as having more than one spouse. In that case, it could be advisable to seek court appointment or for one of the spouses to renounce their duty.

Does birth order determine priority?

The law does not recognize priority by age. Eligible, appointed adult children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, or siblings all have equal rights to make funeral arrangements, respectively.

What if parents must make funeral arrangements for a child?

Each parent is equally responsible for making funeral arrangements. If the surviving parents are separated or divorced, but they hold joint custody, they still have equal authority over the child’s arrangements. If one parent held sole custody of the child, then the responsibility belongs to the sole custody parent. If the child is an adult and the divorced parents are in conflict, then legal counsel may be necessary to determine who has the authority to take on the responsibility of making funeral arrangements for the deceased.

I am alone. Do I still need a Will? 

It is advisable to prepare a Will and name an Executor if there is not a clear Next of Kin living in the province to look after your affairs. Arrangements can be stalled while awaiting the appointment of an administrator. Being prepared is a thoughtful act. Learn how to prepare an affordable Will here.