Estate Planning Law
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Wills - Burial or Cremation

You may choose to 'consider' this when drafting/revising your Will - Burial or Cremation.  At Hutchinson Legal we offer the opportunity to our clients when drafting their Wills whether they wish to be cremated or buried.  Often the response is: 'I am not sure' or 'I don't care'.  Some people, however, may now be interested in the environmental impact of such a choice.  While cremation has a decided advantage over burial in that land is scarce and cemetery lots expensive, cremation has been criticized by some natural burial advocates for its high energy use, production of greenhouse gas emissions and generation of airborne pollutants.  A report by the consultancy company GHD compared the greenhouse gas emissions from cremation and burial (GHD, 2007).  The study estimated that greenhouse gas emissions from cremation were 0.16 tonnes (160kg) of CO2 per person.  GHD estimated that burial produces fewer emissions, at 0.039 tonnes (39kg) of CO2 per person at the time of internment.  For comparative purposes, the average car produces about 4.5 tonnes (4500kg) of greenhouse gases every year (Commonwealth of Australia) which means that in South Australia, where the report was commissioned, the burial of people for the state produced the same greenhouse gas emissions as running 38 cars for a year, and cremation produced the equivalent emissions of running about 267 cars for a year.  The report also concluded, however, that the maintenance of burial sites in conventional cemeteries resulted in 10% greater environmental footprint for burial than for cremation due to the fossil fuels in mowing lawns and maintaining gardens.  Be that as it may, some advocates are considering the environmental impact of having a natural burial - that is being put in the ground without a coffin with the body wrapped in a shroud by the base of a tree so that the body can decompose naturally into the soil.  The government of South Australia it seems, through its Greenhouse Strategy 'Tackling Climate Change - South Australia's Greenhouse Strategy 2007-2010' (Government of South Australia, 2007), and some leading Members of Parliament, is keen to set a framework for the changes needed to address the issues of climate change which includes natural burial.  Be that as it may, careful consideration of the environmental impact of burial or cremation may now help clients in making more decisive choices.

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