Where You Can and Can’t Scatter Cremated Remains

Learn how to legally scatter ashes from a cremation

Deciding where to scatter the cremated remains of a loved one involves considering the deceased’s personality and how they want to be remembered. As you’re choosing the perfect location, you’ll also need to remember to check where you can and can’t scatter cremated remains.

Recent funeral trends show a growing number of people are choosing cremation over other disposition methods. As cremation becomes more popular, people are getting more creative in planning what to do with cremated ashes. Ideas range from creating jewelry with them to shooting them into the sky with fireworks.

As grand as those ideas may seem, they might not be considered legal in your state. Whether you’re preplanning a cremation funeral service or carrying out your loved one’s wishes, you need to research the legality of your plans.

Options for scattering cremated remains

Before you choose the location for scattering cremated ashes, you should decide how to scatter ashes using one of the following methods:

Casting

This is the technique most people think of when scattering cremated remains. Casting involves throwing cremated ashes directly into the wind.

Trenching

This process involves digging a hole and either placing the cremated remains directly into the ground or pouring them in a biodegradable urn that is buried in the earth.

Raking

This method involves spreading cremated remains across the soil and using a rake to mix them into the earth.

Where cremated remains can be scattered

Whether you want your final resting place to be in a favorite vacation spot or in a location that holds special meaning to you, it is important to know where you can legally scatter cremated remains.

Each state has different laws and regulations for where you can scatter cremated ashes. Research the burial and cremation laws of the state you reside in or the state where you are planning to scatter the cremated remains.

Private property

No laws exist to prevent you from having your cremated remains scattered on your private property.

If you wish to scatter cremated ashes on someone else’s private property, you must get consent from the landowner. Most state laws prohibit scattering cremated remains on private property without the landowner’s consent.

Federal land

National parks are federal land where people commonly want to scatter cremated remains. The National Park Service typically grants permission to people wishing to scatter their loved one’s cremated remains within the parks. Most national parks will require you to complete an application, and you may have to pay a small fee.

Each national park has different guidelines for where and how you can scatter cremated ashes. Research the national park’s memorialization policy beforehand. To find applications for scattering your loved one’s cremated remains on federal land or learn about specific park rules, you can visit the National Park Service’s website.

Bodies of water

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Water Act regulates burials at sea and states that “cremated remains shall be buried in or on ocean waters of any depth provided that such burial takes place at least three nautical miles from land.”

The Clean Water Act also requires any material being thrown with the ashes, such as flowers or an urn, to be biodegradable.

Scattering cremated remains in inland bodies of water, such as a river or lake, may be illegal in some states. It is important to contact or research the state agency that manages the waterway before scattering in inland bodies of water.

Where cremated remains can’t be scattered

While a lot of locations are permissible for scattering cremated ashes, some locations are prohibited.

Public land

Almost every state has some regulation on scattering cremated remains on public land. Public land can range from beaches to city streets, so research your state’s laws beforehand.

In the air

Some people choose to scatter cremated ashes in the air by planes. This option can be expensive — and illegal — depending on how you scatter the cremated remains. Federal aviation laws prohibit dropping any objects that might cause harm to people or property.

Be prepared after cremation

After you choose a place to legally scatter your cremated remains, you’ll want to make your wishes known by putting them in writing. The best way to do this is by preplanning. The following two options can help alleviate the financial burden on your family:

Preneed Funeral insurance

Preneed Funeral insurance helps fund a funeral service agreement you’ve established with a funeral home. You choose which elements you want included with your service and the total costs serve as the basis for your Preneed Funeral insurance plan. You can either pay the amount in one lump sum or through monthly premiums. Upon your death, the funds are used to pay the funeral home in accordance with your agreement.

Find a preneed funeral home partner in your state

Final Expense Whole Life insurance

Final Expense Whole Life insurance covers the costs of your funeral service and burial or cremation. It also covers additional expenses your loved ones may face following your passing, such as outstanding medical or credit card bills, estate taxes, legal fees, and living expenses. Final Expense Whole Life Insurance doesn’t retain present-day prices for preplanned funeral costs.

Get a FREE Final Expense insurance quote

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Photo credit: iStock

Our Funeral Expenses Calculator can help estimate your burial and end-of-life expenses and show how those costs could be affected by inflation over time. The data can help you determine whether Final Expense or Preneed Funeral insurance will meet your needs.


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