Funeral dispute was caused by ambiguous final wishes
A recent story I found online about a transatlantic funeral dispute confirms how important it is to have an up-to-date estate plan in place before death.
The story is about Paul Lewis Morigi, a World War 2 veteran who passed away at the age of 97 in 2016. Mr. Morigi died in the United Kingdom after living the majority of his life in the United States. He had been briefly married in the UK in 1944 to a woman named Olive Murphy, but later remarried in the US to a woman named Muriel Murigi . Mr. Murigi divorced his American wife after 60 years of marriage at the age of 92. He then moved back to East Sussex in the UK.
The funeral dispute arose because Mr. Murigi did not set out instructions as to where he wanted to be buried. The British side of Mr. Morigi’s family wanted him buried in the UK in a plot selected by his former wife Olive.
Mr. Morigi’s daughter had to obtain an injunction because she wanted him buried in the US. The American side of his family’s position at trial was that Mr. Morigi purchased a plot in Connecticut and wanted his entire family to be buried there. His son was also buried there in 2009.
Funeral dispute went to trial but settled out of Court
Fortunately for all the parties involved, this funeral dispute was settled out of Court. The parties should now be able to move on from the fight and properly grieve Mr. Morigi’s death. If the dispute had not settled, it could have dragged on without allowing for a timely burial for Mr. Morigi.
A person’s last wishes with respect to their burial should be clearly stated and known by their executors and closest relatives. Bereaved family should not have to battle with each other to determine where a deceased relative should be buried. If the deceased has lived in different countries or continents, legal advice should be sought with respect to a will and a proper estate plan. A person should not leave his or her final affairs disorganized because this can lead to unexpected legal fights among family members and legal costs.
Mr. Morigi’s story is an excellent example of why final wishes must be clear and in writing.