06 February 2019

What to do with the ashes after cremation

One of the big differences between a burial and cremation is that proceedings don’t necessarily end with the funeral after a cremation. Your Funeral Director will ask you what you’d like done with the ashes once the service is over. You can choose to have them scattered in a garden of remembrance at the crematorium either by staff or by family with a brief ceremony. Alternatively, you can collect the ashes, and then decide what to do with them.

What were the final wishes of the deceased?

The deceased may have specified what they would like done with their ashes, either in their will, in their estate plan, or even verbally with someone close to them. If that isn’t the case, you should talk to other members of the family of the deceased – they may have different ideas on what should be done with the ashes. In these cases, the best thing may be to agree to divide up the ashes. The law has no say over who owns ashes, or how they should be divided, so you should aim to settle these questions between interested parties as amicably as possible.

Are there any restrictions on the interment of ashes?

You can bury ashes within an existing family grave, as long as you have the rights to do so, and have got permission from the cemetery. The same is true if you’d like to scatter the ashes on a family grave – some cemeteries won’t allow this. At some cemeteries you can choose to bury the urn in its own site, adding a small monument to mark its location, while you may also have the option of placing the urn in a columbarium, which is like a large mausoleum with numerous compartments for urns. The advantage of all these options is that they provide a place for those close to the deceased to gather and visit whenever they want to.

You can also bury the ashes in your garden, though it’s worth bearing in mind that, if you later decide you want to move them, you’d require an exhumation licence to do it officially.

What’s the law on scattering ashes?

Many people now prefer to scatter the ashes of their loved one in a location that meant something to them. While there are no national laws restricting the scattering of ashes of the deceased over land, you would need the permission of landowners if you’re considering scattering them on private land.

For example, the Forestry Commission has a ban on ashes being scattered on any of their property, and the Royal Parks would prefer you didn’t, though they don’t have a formal ban. In many cases, this attitude is for environmental reasons – ashes can contain minerals that interfere with soil fertility if scattered in one area in large amounts. This is particularly true in popular beauty spots, where many bereaved relatives having the same idea can interfere with local ecology. Some football grounds have banned the practice for this reason – hundreds of supporters would probably want their ashes scattered on their favourite team’s ground, and the turf could suffer.

Generally, if you scatter them somewhere quiet, not privately owned, and away from population centres, you’re less likely to be disturbed or to have to get official permission.

What about scattering ashes at sea?

The laws are equally relaxed about the scattering of ashes at sea or any other waterway, with the same qualifications about seeking permission if the water runs through privately owned land. You should also consult the Environment Agencies Guidance for help with avoiding polluting the environment and contravening any regulations.

You don’t have to look for an isolated spot on a beach to scatter ashes. Most seaside towns now have boating services that offer to take several passengers to carry out the scattering of ashes at sea, complete with a small service if so desired. A quick online search will reveal similar services available on the Thames and other major rivers throughout the UK.

Other ideas for ashes 

In recent years, both the market and opportunities for what you can do with ashes have expanded enormously. Here are just a few ideas that are already out there:

 

  • Scatter them from the air by light aircraft, hot air balloon or drone.
  • Make a big noise by having them put into fireworks for an explosively colourful scattering.
  • Mix them with paint and used to create a portrait of the deceased.
  • Have them mixed with vinyl and pressed into a record – perhaps of the music chosen for the funeral.
  • Have some put into a pendant or other jewellery, or encased in resin and used to make an ornament.  

So long as it accords with the wishes of the deceased and their loved ones and you have permission where it is needed, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

Help pay towards your plans with our Over 50s Fixed Life Insurance

Our Over 50s Fixed Life Insurance could allow you to leave a fixed cash sum to your loved ones when you pass away. It could help contribute towards your funeral costs or be left as a gift. If you are looking to leave a sum to help contribute towards funeral costs you can choose to add the Funeral Benefit Option to your plan. T&Cs apply.

Find out more about our Over 50s Fixed Life Insurance Plan here.