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Ownership Of Cremated Remains

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Ownership Of Cremated Remains

Postby Navarro » Mon Dec 08, 2014 4:29 am

Dear Lisa

I have a lot of people ask who owns cremation ashes. As I sure you know there can be some strong feelings on the matter(eg the recent carol Shelby case). But I can't find any case law, in the UK or the States. I tell them from what I can see nobody owns the ashes in the same way you can't own a person. However, people have aright to possess them, and that comes from the contact between the funeral company and the purchaser of the funeral. I am right or anywhere close?

Your help  is much appreciated


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Ownership Of Cremated Remains

Postby Redwald » Wed Dec 10, 2014 1:28 pm

Case law gives a quasi-right to a body(or cremated remains) for the purpose of burial and mourning. In the U.S., about half the states have a law that permits a person to name a designated agent for body disposition. That is helpful in the case of an unmarried couple or when one is estranged from legal next-of-kin. Many if not most states will honor the written wishes of the deceased as might be found in a will, too, tho' a will often isn't read until after the funeral which is why the designated agent document is helpful.

Funeral directors get themselves into BIG trouble if they make funeral arrangements(and take money) from someone who is not either the legal next-of-kin or a designated agent. Typically, next-of-kin go in this order:


Adult children, all of whom have equal rights, so in some cases a majority might be needed


Adult siblings


If next-of-kin fail to step forward to make arrangements and actively refuse to do so, then an interested party could take over. But there has to be an effort to speak with the next-of-kin first. One can't simply take over without telling the next-of-kin.

Does this answer your question?
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