Chapter 14
New Zealand law on care and custody of the body

14.1There is no provision in the Burial and Cremation Act 1964 (the Act) setting out a legal right of decision in a dispute over the body of a deceased person. Although section 46E of the Act requires the person “having charge of a body” to dispose of it within a reasonable time, that does not confer a legal right on any specific, identifiable person such as a partner or family member of the deceased.

14.2Accordingly, the courts have looked to common law, the body of law derived from court decisions, to determine who does, or should, have the legal right of decision regarding care and custody of the deceased’s body.