Is there a legal document that can prevent my body from turning over to my family after my death?

When I talk to my family they say my thoughts don't matter. Their ceremonies will defile both my body and spirit.

They have promised to invite people that have done me grievous pain as a child.

  • 3
    Where do you live?
    – gnasher729
    Feb 5 '18 at 21:58
  • 3
    If the reason you anticipate needing this protection has anything to do with a non-natural cause of death please reach out and get help. As gnasher729 asked, knowing what jurisdiction you are in may change the laws and alter the answer about how best to see that your wishes are respected. Feb 6 '18 at 0:09
  • Don't forget to check local laws to ensure that what you dictate is actually legal.
    – SJuan76
    Feb 6 '18 at 11:42
  • Hey, @JasonAller has said all that anyone needs to say here. OP, life always gets better regardless of how you feel in your youth!
    – A.fm.
    Feb 9 '18 at 17:25

There is not uniformity of law on this question, which is usually decided in the period after a death, but before a will is admitted to probate or an executor is appointed (typically in three to five days).

As a result, the legal jurisdiction (usually a country or sub-national state or autonomous region) involved matters a great deal.

For example, Italy used to presume that you did not want organ donation if you didn't execute a document during life saying that you did, and now has the opposite presumption.

Similarly, many jurisdictions used to give a blood relative priority over a same sex partner, but now recognize a civil union or same sex marriage as having priority over a blood relative.

Some jurisdictions give you some say over, for example, whether your body's organs will be donated or your body will be used for medical research. Some have formal documents that can be drafted and there are such things as "negative" provisions that are documents saying who cannot do something with your body. Other jurisdictions, as user6726 suggests, have a fixed priority system for determining who is next of kin and that applies strictly.

Needless to say, a critical issue is how any such directive would be enforced. Obviously you, being dead, can't do that, and documents don't simply crawl out of desk drawers and walk themselves into court houses after your death either. Your wishes will never be enforced unless someone takes it upon themselves at the critical moment, to take action, and in that case, local law determines under what circumstances that person's statement regarding your wishes will be honored.

Often, the person who might step up to take action doesn't learn of your death and of the location of your body until it is too late.

If you die in circumstances where your identity is unknown, or where no relatives can be located and no directives can be located, some public official or whomever else ends up in possession of your body (often a corner) will have to decide for themselves what to do without your input.


A spouse generally has the right to dispose of the body (Radomer Russ-Pol Unterstitzung Verein v. Posner, 176 Md. 332). If there is no spouse, or if the right to bury has been waived, that right passes to the next of kin in closeness of relation. However, if you appoint a trusted representative to carry out your wishes, then the courts will generally respect that wish even if it is contrary to the wishes of your entire family. The representative will, however, need to be able to act quickly (may need to get a court order to prevent the family from claiming and disposing of the body as they see fit). This assumes a jurisdiction such as US, Canada, UK, and there may be no such protections in other jurisdictions.


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