Wills and Estate Planning

Court determines sister entitled to arrange funeral and burial of her young sister


The High Court has given judgment in a tragic case involving the death of a schoolgirl whose parents and siblings disagreed over her funeral arrangements and place of burial.

Tragic death

The schoolgirl, who tragically took her own life, was under the care of the Child and Family Agency and resided in a placement with her aunt, her aunt’s husband and her siblings. She had been subject to a care order since she was 18 months old. In 2019, her parents applied to have the care order lifted, which was refused by the court.

After her death, her parents, and her aunt and siblings could not agree on the funeral arrangements and place of burial.

One of her siblings made an application pursuant to s.27(4) of the Succession Act 1965 on behalf of her aunt, aunt’s husband and remaining siblings. They wished for her to be buried locally, where she spent most of her life so that her friends and community could attend her wake and funeral and so that she could be buried where these family members could visit her grave.

Her parents wished for her to be buried where they lived, and where her maternal and paternal grandparents were buried.

High Court determination

The Court noted that there had not been a comparable situation in a written judgment since the State’s independence. The Court noted that under rules of court, the deceased girl’s parents would be persons first entitled to take out the grant as legal personal representatives, the next thereafter being the siblings.

Section 27(4) of the 1965 Act permits, by reason of any special circumstances, the Court to order that administration be granted to such person as it thinks fit, where it is necessary or expedient to do so.

Ms Justice Stack determined that, in the very special circumstances of the case, and considering that the girl had spent most of her life under the care of her aunt and aunt’s husband, residing with her siblings, it was expedient to allow the sibling’s application. Her siblings, aunt and aunt’s husband were permitted to make arrangements and bury the girl in the place where she had lived for most of her life.

In conclusion, the Court stated, such circumstances would be extremely rare and such orders would only ever extend to identifying who could make arrangements, and not the details of any arrangements.

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