Frazer Blog

Spreading ashes might not be as legal as you think

by | Sep 13, 2016 | For Families

A woman carrying a basket of flowers

The last thing you want after losing someone you love is to have to worry about legal action.

Unfortunately, though, if you plan to scatter your loved one’s ashes, it’s one more thing you have to think about. Believe it or not, there are a lot of rules when it comes to scattering cremation ashes.

As uncomfortable as it is to think about, these laws are in place because the ashes you spread aren’t really ashes at all — they are bone fragments. They are human remains.

Unless you want your loved one to end up subject to a crime scene investigation, it’s probably a good idea to follow these rules of thumb for scattering their ashes.

Private Property

If you own the property, you are free to scatter ashes however you please. If it is property owned by someone else, it is important that you get their permission — and you may want to record their permission either with a tape recorder or on paper to be safe.

Public Parks

When it comes to public parks, scattering ashes typically depends on the city that owns and controls the park and their ordinances. Check with your local government to determine what rules they have about scattering ashes in public parks.

National Parks

Most U.S. National Parks allow the scattering of ashes, but you must obtain a permit first. Their permits explain all protocols that must be followed when scattering ashes within the park.

Rural Land

In most cases, there are no specific rules against scattering cremated remains in rural areas, just be sure that the location isn’t, in fact, someone’s private property.

Graveyards

When it comes to graveyards, the laws depend largely on the type of cemetery you are considering. If the graveyard is on private property, you must have the landowner’s permission before spreading ashes — the same goes for church graveyards.

Most public cemeteries allow spreading ashes, but some towns have passed laws banning the practice at public cemeteries. It’s best to check with your local authorities to ensure you are allowed to do so.

Inland Waterways

If you want to spread your loved one’s ashes in a favorite lake, river, stream, pond, or other inland waterway, it may require a permit from your local government. Because of the Clean Water Act, some locations will enforce rules about cremated remains but others may not.

At Sea

Scattering ashes at sea or on a beach depends on where you are — in California, for example, you must scatter them at least 500 yards from the shore; in Florida, the water must be at least 1,800 feet deep.

Abroad

Of course, these laws change wherever you go, so it’s important to be aware of the laws in the country where you wish to scatter your loved one’s ashes.

In General

In conclusion, it’s probably best if you do your research before you scatter any ashes, including:

  • Who owns the property? Is it public or private?
  • If it is private, contact the owner(s) and ask for their permission. You may want to document that permission.
  • If it is public, what laws does the local government have about spreading ashes in general, and in that particular location?
  • If you cannot find any information about ownership or rules, you usually can go ahead with spreading ashes — just use common sense and be respectful.

In most cases, the rules are generally more of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” than actual laws. But it’s still a good idea to make sure you won’t be causing issues down the road, so do your research first and in all instances be sure to be respectful of the location where you scatter.

Do you want your ashes scattered? If so, where? Share in the comments below!

5 Comments

  1. DW

    Funeral directors are famous for making up rules and laws by simply talking too much. Most times it’s best to just shut up. Cremation is a form of disposal. A body is considered disposed of following cremation. What remains is of absolutely no consequence or harm to anyone or any thing. It’s totally irrelevant. Just shut up about it or some politician will capitalize off stupid remarks and make a law that someone else will make billions off of. Just stop talking about it.

    Reply
  2. Sarah

    I am so glad there are rules about this. When I swim in a public pond, river, or lake I don’t want to be swimming in something mixed with the parts of someone’s dead body, neither do I want to be breathing that in so I hope that when people are cremated crematories are careful about the ashes getting into air so people might get it on their clothes or breathe it in. I once got someone’s ashes (someone else was spreading it in a public area close to where I was standing) inside my mouth.. The whole idea of spreading people’s dead body powder in public venues is very offensive to me. You wouldn’t drop a dead persons fingers or toes into a public swimming area or drip a dead person’s intestines on someone else’s house (even after they washed it off it could still bother the owner), so why people think it is of no consequence to do this of another form of a corpses’ remains is beyond me. There is also the question of whether it is wrong to cause someone to violate their conscience if they are unaware. For example, if someone has been a strict morally-motivated vegetarian, and everyone in a nursing home knows that, is it right to secretly feed them meat when they get Alzheimer’s? If they had clarity of thought they would be very upset. In cultures all over the world people are very careful with people’s remains because they have spiritual significance. Regardless of what most people in the US think about ashes not having any connection with someone potentially entering hell (for people who believe in the afterlife) or having curses attached to the remains, still it would be thoughtful if they would be more sensitive in public areas with spreading around a powdered form of a dead body, an item (if you can call it an item) that has so much strong religious significance to other people.

    Reply
  3. Winifred Peters

    Ashes to ashes dust to dust, above ground or below we all are part of Gods good earth.

    Reply
  4. JENNY SNEED

    For Sarah….human remains are not powder or ashes. They are bone fragments. My daughter in law’s remains were scattered at sea per her request. The remains glittered in the sunlight casting a purplish hue. Several dolphins came to play in the water among her remains. It was very beautiful and I am sure she would have been thrilled.

    Reply
  5. Kelly Snyder

    All from earth return. Either decomposition within a casket or interred human cremated remains or cremated remains scattered in water or on land. In fact, a body which has been cremated at 3000 degrees is free of all diseases some people believe cremated remains contain. The moment we are conceived we are on the path to death. Death should not be feared, nor human cremated remains.

    Reply

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