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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.