Williams v Williams: 1882

By codicil to his will the deceased directed that his executors should give his body to Miss Williams; and by letter he requested her to cremate his body under a pile of wood, to place the ashes into a specified Wedgwood vase and to claim her expenses from his executors. After the body had been buried at the direction of the executors, Miss Williams therefore caused it to be dug up and (because cremation was not lawful in Britain) sent it to Milan for cremation. She caused the ashes to be placed into a vase and claimed her expenses from the executors.
Held: Her claim failed. An executor having lawful possession of a corpse may have a duty to arrange its burial. There is no property in a corpse, and a person cannot effectively dispose of it in his will. Any directions given by the deceased with regard to the disposal of his body are not enforceable as a matter of law.


Kay J


[1882] 20 ChD 659


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedDobson and Dobson v North Tyneside Health Authority and Newcastle Health Authority CA 26-Jun-1996
A post mortem had been carried out by the defendants. The claimants, her grandmother and child sought damages after it was discovered that not all body parts had been returned for burial, some being retained instead for medical research. They now . .
CitedHartshorne v Gardner ChD 14-Mar-2008
The deceased died in a motor accident, aged 44. The parties, his mother and father, disputed control over his remains, and requested an order from the court.
Held: The court has such an inherent jurisdiction. Since the claimants had an equal . .
CitedYearworth and others v North Bristol NHS Trust CA 4-Feb-2009
The defendant hospital had custody of sperm samples given by the claimants in the course of fertility treatment. The samples were effectively destroyed when the fridge malfunctioned. Each claimant was undergoing chemotherapy which would prevent them . .
CitedRe JS (Disposal of Body) FD 10-Nov-2016
Child’s Wish for post-mortem cryonic Preservation
JS, a child of 14, anticipating her death from cancer expressed the desire that her body should receive cryonic preservation in the hope that one day a treatment might be available to allow her to be revived, and proceedings were issued. Her parents . .
CitedAnstey v Mundle and Another ChD 25-Feb-2016
The deceased had been born in Jamaica, but had lived in the UK for many years. The parties, before a grant in the estate of the deceased, disputed whether he should be buried in England or returned to Jamaica for burial.
Held: Having . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Wills and Probate

Updated: 24 November 2022; Ref: scu.195011

Comments are closed.