Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the Guidelines for the Scattering of Ashes?

Scattering ashes in a ceremony is one of the most celebrated benefits of cremation. In this practice, your loved one gets a final rest in a place that is particularly beautiful or meaningful to them. Scattering ashes comes with a number of legal guidelines that you must follow to avoid problems with authorities, whether you plan to scatter the ashes on public or private property, land or water.

Legal Places to Scatter Ashes

There are several places where you can legally scatter ashes. This includes many national parks, which are popular sites for scattering. As a rule, you may scatter ashes on private property only after you obtain prior approval from the owner. For public properties, including national parks, you should contact administrators for the location and ask if they have any forms you need to fill out to get approval. It is always wise to get written permission to bring with you to the scattering ceremony, so that there is no confusion when you arrive.

Scattering Ashes on Water

You face some limitations on the scattering of ashes on water. Typically, you are not legally allowed to scatter ashes on beaches, creeks, ponds or rivers. These waterways may lead to a public water supply. If you wish to scatter ashes in the ocean, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires that you follow rules under the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA). The permit allows you to scatter ashes a minimum of three nautical miles from the shore, provided you notify the EPA within 30 days of the intended burial. If you want to bury ashes at sea using an urn that does not decompose naturally, you must obtain an MPRSA special permit before you do so.

How to Scatter Ashes Legally

Once you get approval from the proper authorities to scatter ashes, there are a few practices that are either encouraged or enforced, depending on the location. Generally, you are expected to avoid common walking paths when you scatter the ashes. After you have scattered the ashes, you should rake the ashes or separate them so that there are no piles of ashes or larger pieces of bone sitting exposed on the ground. Public properties require that you stay at least 100 yards away from any source of water, unless you are performing an approved scattering over water.

Scattering ashes often leads to a peaceful sense of rest, but only if you follow the law. Consider these guidelines as you make your plans, and you will have a safe and memorable ceremony.

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