The Funeral Directors Association is asking for a law change to make someone responsible for those who die with no next-of-kin.

Thomas Brugman died in Dargaville Hospital on July 14 last year and his body has been left with a funeral parlour ever since.

At the time, a health social worker contacted Hart Funerals in Dargaville, requesting Brugman's body be transferred into its care, as no next of kin was available at the time to give instructions.

Two days later, the funeral home was told no next of kin could be located. Efforts to locate possible relatives in the Netherlands were fruitless.


The funeral home contacted the Public Trust to see whether it would administer Brugman's estate but it could not offer any assistance.

Hart Funerals general manager Gary Taylor said the funeral home embalmed Brugman in August, so if his family should pop up from anywhere they could spend some time with him.

Taylor said Brugman falls into a "grey area" of the legislation. He said the funeral home needed somebody, who was legally entitled to, to give them instructions on what to do next.

As the law stands, if a person dies without next of kin and without a will, someone can't simply step in to deal with the estate or the body.

An application must be made to the High Court, at a cost, for a public executor to be appointed.

The Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand has made a submission to the select committee on the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Bill.

"On the death of a person, there needs to be a person or agency with the authority to dispose of the deceased. In the event this does not occur, who is responsible for this person?

"The High Court has the ability to appoint the Public Trust, but this must be applied for. The gap in legislation is around who applies to the High Court," the submission states.

Association president Stephen Dil said whenever next of kin can't be identified, it should default to a public trustee or agency to make the application to the High Court.

Taylor said this situation was not unusual but generally family popped up within weeks, not seven months. He thought it would become more common as families dispersed more.

He said the funeral home has accepted an offer from Perpetual Guardian, which upon hearing about Brugman, offered to apply to the High Court to execute Brugman's estate and put him to rest at its own cost.

The company has also added it's support to the Funeral Directors Association's bid to change the law.