What Happens To Uncollected Ashes
A death in the winter. Difficulty scheduling a memorial. Family members unprepared to accept the death of a loved one. There are many reasons that people never go to collect the ashes of their loved ones after they die and are cremated. Unlike traditional burials, cremated remains take up little space. Since ashes do not require a prompt burial, family members sometimes allow the remains to sit at the funeral home until a better time. But, as cremation trends toward the more popular method of treating the body after death, the number of uncollected urns at funeral homes increases. And, it is a problem all over the world. While most funeral homes simply hold on to the ashes, waiting for the family to come get them, some funeral directors are taking matters into their own hands. While the decision to leave the ashes at a funeral home is considered an option by many, there are many more dignified choices to give the deceased their due.
Uncollected Ashes in North America
Across North America, the story is the same. From California to Quebec, funeral directors are at a loss to determine what to do with the rising numbers of uncollected urns in their funeral homes. The Cremation Association of North America (CANA) maintains data about cremation in this region. And, for the 23,000 funeral homes in North America, uncollected ashes are a fact of life. According to Global News, CANA estimates that there are more than 2 million urns in funeral homes across North America, waiting to be collected. Some have been forgotten as an institutional problem. BBC reported that in 2004, Oregon State Hospital unearthed the ashes of more than 3,400 people, some dating back to the 1880s. But, for most cases, the matter is more personal. CANA’s executive director Barbara Kemmis told Global News that after families have begun to pick up the pieces, they still are unsure what to do with the cremated remains. They may not be aware of their options for scattering the ashes, as well as burial on land or at sea.
A Worldwide Problem
In the United Kingdom, funeral homes face the same concern. And, the older the funeral home, the older the ashes. BBC noted that some funeral homes in the U.K. have urns from the 1910s or 1920s. One funeral director in Southampton, England, begged for people to collect some of the 405 urns waiting at a single funeral home. All over the world, funeral directors often cannot conclude what to do with the ashes. Some funeral homes are becoming crowded due to cremation’s rise in popularity. Funeral directors dread making a decision to scatter or bury uncollected ashes, only to have the family members return to collect them. And, this does occasionally happen. In 2008, ABC News reported a story about a woman who collected her father’s ashes at a funeral home in Toledo, Ohio, 67 years after he died. That funeral home closed business after nearly 150 years, and needed to find homes for the uncollected remains. When the home published the names of the deceased in a local newspaper, the woman claimed the ashes of her father, who had died in 1941.
Funeral Directors Take Action
While most funeral homes make earnest attempts to either keep uncollected ashes or find family members to collect ashes, others have no choice but to take action. Depending on local laws, funeral homes must keep the ashes for a certain amount of time. Most U.S. states require them to hold onto uncollected ashes for a minimum of four years, although states like Ohio mandate a comparatively short 60 days. After that, it is up to funeral directors to decide. Kemmis of CANA told Global News that funeral directors sometimes scatter or bury the ashes themselves. But, they usually keep meticulous records of the names of the deceased and where the remains were scattered or buried. Some funeral directors believe that it is important to find a final resting place for the deceased, which is not in a funeral home. The Daily Mail in the U.K. reported last year about Phil Painter, a funeral director who publicly announced that he would scatter the ashes of 150 people whose remains sat unclaimed at his business. Painter said that this was a final effort to alert families to their need to come get the remains of their loved ones. He claimed that he was more than willing to give families the time they needed to make arrangements. But, for remains dating back as far as the 1950s, he said it was time to give them a proper service.
One of the reasons people leave the cremated remains of their loved ones at a funeral home is that they simply cannot decide what to do with the ashes. They are unaware of the many options available to them these days. Ashes may be scattered, buried underground, in a cemetery or even at sea. Although people may choose to keep the ashes of the deceased near them in a classic brass urn, they have other choices. These days, urns are designed for scattering, burial or as keepsakes. Some are even biodegradable. Urn manufacturers use a variety of materials to construct the urns, including: • Ceramic • Wood • Metal • Stone • Glass There are many choices in color and style, depending on what the family intends to do with the ashes. That way, people can select the urn that demonstrates the loved one’s style and personality. Every funeral home has at least a few urns for ashes that sit uncollected by the family. While in most cases, funeral directors wait for families to return, some eventually decide to scatter the ashes themselves. When people know the many alternatives they have for the cremated remains of their loved ones, they can make a better choice.
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My directives say I don’t want anyone to hold onto my ashes. No urns or necklaces with ‘me’ inside. I find it meaningless and depressing that a family member be reminded of me in that fashion. Then continue to move my ashes wherever they go. My notes say fine to have crematory dispose of them.
Every time someone in my family gets sick lately, like my Mom and my Sister, it seems then mysteriously they are put into a hospice care right away and people start planing for a cremation, but being very devout Christians and my Mother never wanted to be cremated, and my Sister, was doing everything to get better, does not sound very truthful coming from very shady hateful ungrateful abusive narcissist psycho-sociopaths family members. I am very concerned that I am dealing with cold blooded psycho-sociopaths who may be trying to find a way to cover murders, crimes, and benefit by it by collecting money from it that I have no Knowledge of that they may be collecting or stand to gain. I do not want them doing this to other people in our family for I refuse to believe that my sister passed away with no one contacting me, and after finding it out, no one or her husband contacting me still, and I do not know where is her body or anything of what has happened to her body. I typed her name in the search engine, but no obituary, no memorial, no listing of her, no mention of any death, cremation, or burial. Absolutely nothing! How long does it take to cremate someone? It has been six days since the day that they said that she passed, this Saturday. Why hasn't or won't my brother-in-law contact or talk to anyone? I don't trust my family, think that they are trying to talk me into cremation, and may know more than what they are saying. Refuse to give me any information even my brother-in-law's phone number until they contact him and hear back from him. So bizarre and makes no sense! More weird that she was also a Veteran and they became nervous and did not want the Army notified of her death.
I am trying to give them the benefit of a doubt, but if they do not contact me soon. I will contact the military and I will call to get info about her body, but I am not really sure who to contact about her body since she passed away in the hospice. Who do I contact and what do I do?
I would suggest pre-planning for your cremation, that way you have a say in how you would like your cremains handled when the time comes. A lot of people like the idea of having their ashes scattered and there are several types of scattering urns that can help with this process, https://www.inthelighturns.com/scattering-urns.html
I want to be cremated but I don't want any of my family members taking my ashes.
Hello Paula, I’m sorry you have been having trouble locating your grandfather’s ashes. Do you have the exact date of his passing? Unfortunately since it has been over 40 years since he passed it is likely that the funeral home has already dispersed of his ashes on their own. I would not give up looking though, the best option would be to keep doing some research. You can always try locating records through various genealogy websites. Better yet, I would try contacting the local cemeteries in the area that your grandfather passed away. In some cases when ashes are left uncollected, depending on the funeral home, they will end up being transferred to a cemetery for burial or scattering and the cemetery should have names on record from the funeral home if this was the case.
I commend Susan Fraser for trying to be helpful, but regarding those who do not want anyone either to have the ashes or to have the responsibility of disposing of them, Ms. Fraser is simply, albeit kindly, ducking the question. Some of us consider common practices regarding one's remains to be disgusting. They should not be coerced into going along with those practices. Funeral homes should give the option to have one's remains disposed of along with the funeral homes' other waste products. While this could be considered disrespectful when decided by someone other than the deceased, surely the deceased's own determinations as expressed prior to death should be accepted without question.
It's a shame that some people are cremated, then have their ashes left at the funeral homes. I can see how someone may leave the ashes for a while, but to forget them is a big deal. I hope that if one day I'm cremated, I hope my family doesn't forget about my remains. Thanks for that really interesting information!
Each individual has their own opinion in regards to death and the cremation process. Also, grief plays a major role in the planning of a funeral or memorial service. There are some people who do not believe in these rituals. However, ways to cope with grief can help anyone regardless of their beliefs. Each person will handle a loss differently, but the stages of grieving can serve as a support guide.
If the state takes over and cremates my brother - we do not have funds to pay for funeral at this time, and the wife does not pay for them from the state later but I do, can I get the ashes?
Would anyone be able to help me? I have returned to collect my deceased husbands ashes from the funeral directors only to find they have dissolved and gone. Please can anyone tell me what is likely to have happened to them? Is there a legal obligation on behalf of the funeral company. I did not know at the time that the company was in the process of dissolving but it appears they went quickly after the cremation. I would be grateful for any advice.
Another side to the story is when my father is creamated I don't want his ashes back in my house.
My daughter's friend passed away earlier this year in Los Angeles County as homeless. Her ashes remain unclaimed. Her father is deceased and her bio mom doesn't want to collect her ashes. She has some friends that want to give her the final honor of burial. How do we go about obtaining her ashes? Is there a law in California that designates a time frame for the ashes to be held by the Coroner? I'm willing to pick up the Indigent Cremation fee and work with our local cemetary district to have her ashes placed. Any info would be helpful.
Hello Jane, sounds like a suspense filled script. To answer your question, the bones would first be collected by the police department for proper analysis. Once the police no longer have use for the bones they would then be transferred to a proper funeral director or mortician, hope this helps.
I guess I should have considered those who do not want to participate in the common practices for there own personal reasons aside from the most common reasons. I do know the idea of handling remains or dealing with someones deceased body can be somewhat uncomfortable for some people regardless if the person was a loved one so I guess I can see where you are coming from. Since the number of uncollected ashes continues to grow, maybe it will be a possible choice in the future to have the funeral home just dispose of the person's ashes if they had no arrangements pre-planned and the person left in charge does not want to carry out any type of memorial, burial or scattering of the ashes.
In April of 1977 my mother Edna Mae Stevenson was cremated in Alhambra California. I was 11 and as far as I know her ashes were never claimed. Is there any way of finding out where the ashes may be now?
I came here assuming a crematorium would know best how to dispose of my ashes with dignity so I could spare my family from any further effort. Apparently this is not a service they offer.
I had no idea that uncollected ashes could be such a problem for funeral homes. I personally would recommend always being in close contact with the funeral home so you don't forget anything. Don't forget your ashes, and don't burden the funeral home with making a tough decision.
Hello Catherine, i'm so sorry you are having trouble obtaining your brothers ashes. What state are you located in? The laws do slightly vary from state to state, but normally the legal spouse does have the rights to the cremated remains. Have you tried making contact with her recently to see if she would give permission for you to come collect the remains since he was your brother? If you are not able to get in contact with her or would rather not I think your best bet at that point would be to contact a lawyer to sort out the legalities.
my brother was cremated 14th feb 2017,his wife has not bothered to collect his ashes,as she is now with someone else.i cant collect them,as i was told she is the client,and she must give permission to allow this.what can i do to get my brothers ashes,as this is nearly 8mnths,that his ashes are still at the funeral parlour.the wife wont talk to me.do i need to get a lawyer to sort this out? please can someone give me advice?
My best friend of thirty eight years and the mother of my nephew, passed away November of 2015 and her ashes are also still sitting at the funeral home. My nephew is the one that is to pick them up and he's been given lots of money by her 2 sisters and 1 brother so he can pick them up but he chooses to party instead. Both sisters and the brother and boyfriend has tried to go in, with money, but they will not release the ashes without my nephew's signature and he is not responding to phone calls, messages, etc. It's really sad and just breaks my heart knowing my friend is where she is. I am in Oregon.
People respond to grief differently. There are so many reasons why ashes are not collected. In each state, the rules and regulations differ. For example, only approved family members or friends are allowed to collect their loved one's ashes. Funeral homes will not hand them out to anyone. Sometimes, families have conflicts about who gets to keep their loved one's ashes. It is vert important for families to pre-plan their memorial service, so problems like this do not occur.
I agree with you because for many it is a matter of money. When it comes to a death in the family, so many issues can arise. It is important to be prepared for these scenarios. Pre-Planning a Funeral or Memorial service is, although uncomfortable to discuss, a very important process to help alleviate stress of the family when a death occurs. Cremation costs vary in each state and it can all depend on the type of service, urn style, burial arrangements and so on. Cremation is becoming increasingly popular for many reasons and financial costs are one of them. Cremation funerals can save thousands compared to traditional burials.
Every funeral home is different. I would contact the funeral home with questions regarding what they do with uncollected ashes. The death of a family member is always a difficult process to go through. Pre Planning a Funeral or Cremation Ceremony can help alleviate stress for families. Having a plan will help family and friends through grieving the loss of a loved one.
Each state has different rules regarding time limits for uncollected ashes. Most states require funeral homes to hold ashes for a minimum of 4 years. Some funeral homes will take matters into their own hands, however they will keep record of this information for purposes of family. Funeral Directors are required to reach out to the families related to the deceased. I would contact your funeral home for further information regarding your husbands remains.
I never knew that this would be an issue. I wouldn't have thought that people would forget the ashes of those people that they love. I'm surprised that there are ashes from the 1920s in the UK. I would think that it would become a storage problem. This is really interesting.
I am so sorry that this has happened to you and your family. The Cremation Association of North America (CANA) is a database that you can go to for this specific reason. Are you located in North America? They have over 3,300 members, composed of funeral homes, cemeteries, crematories, industry suppliers and more. They would be able to provide you with the next steps in locating your mother's ashes. I am sorry you have to go through this, it must be very frustrating.
Contact the funeral home in which the deceased member is located. Each funeral home is different depending on local laws and should be able to provide you with further steps to take. There are pre planning steps families can take to help guide them through this difficult process. Please visit our post on Pre-Planning a Funeral for more detailed information.
If unclaimed remains are not picked up by family members , can members of a church where the deceased person was a member collect them and have a decent memorial service and have the remains buried properly in a cemetary in his or her home town with dignity?
For some families it's a matter of money. Cremation runs around 700.00 to 1,500.00. I paid 4,200.00 for my mom's spot and since she had no life insurance to total bill was a little over 5,000.00.
Now I face the part where I need 3 signatures to complete her burial, per the cemetery requirements. My mom is still in my home due to sibling stupidity.
It's been 11 years ago today that my mother died and I still have not been able to locate her ashes. The funeral home doesn't know, the executor of her estate doesn't know, nobody seems to know. Is there any kind of database I can tap into that might help?
I'm involved with a family through a dear friend/father. His only son doesn't have the income to pay for his funeral. Noonebgas came forward. His body was in cooler for 26 dates before they cremated him now they refuse to hand him ashes of his fatherer. Help what can we do. We are desperate.
What happens when the person has made arrangements before death to be cremated but has no relatives to collect the ashes? Can they be given to a friend?
The laws can vary from state to state, what state are you located in?
If the so called " loved ones " don't care enough to collect them after a reasonable time then why should the funeral home be burdened with them.
When making arrangements for a cremation, bring a relative or close friend with you while making such sensitive decisions. The importance of pre-planning a cremation or ceremony can ease the burden off friends or family. Get in contact with your local funeral director to discuss the different options available. Proper paper work will need to be filled out for the release of the cremated remains from the crematorium.
Hi Nina, funeral services can become very pricey, we completely understand that many families do not have the ability to have services. If ever in need we here at In The Light Urns offer free urns.https://www.inthelighturns.com/free-urns.html
It may also be helpful to reach out to a local corners office. They may be able to help with the cost.
My mom passed away 10 yrs ago. My brother was the executor of the estate. He was to handle all the details of my mom's burial, since my parents already have 4 burial plots. After her funeral I was called into the funeral director's office and told I was to pick up her remains. I did this and have had her now for these 10 yrs.
None of my 3 brother will contribute to her burial. I am on a fixed income. I am trying to save the money to have her properly buried. Is there a time frame to do this.
My father's remains are in a funeral home now. I just simply don't have the thousands of to get him out.
My niece died her daughter had her cremated and has the ashes.
There months later my nieces grandfather died his going to be buried the wife of the deceased ask the niece of she would consider giving her small tiny bit of her their daughters ashes to bury insiders casket with her Dad..
The niece said NO!!! The severity like 4 pounds we only want ounces of less!!!
Other Than Giving The Ashes To Then Family Member
Does the funeral home also have ashes of the deceased?
That we could get. I had heard you could.
We're just asking or is there no hope.
Thank you for your time.
Your question I guess could be considered morbid by some, but it is a good question and a concern for many i'm sure. It would all depend on the funeral home and the state you are located in. Almost all funeral homes require the body to be placed inside some type of container for the actual cremation. If you guys had purchased a cremation coffin with an outer shell to resemble a traditional casket then the outer shell would be removed before cremation and the inner box/coffin the body is placed in would be left for the cremation process. If this was the case, then it is possible the outer shell was reused, depending on the laws within your state. You could always do a weight comparison as well to determine if the coffin was included with the cremation. How much did your son weigh at passing?
On Oct 31, 2017 I received a call saying my mother was dead and I needed to meet with coroner for pick up with my oldest who was 11yrs old. I was told by funeral home nothing would be done with my mother without my OK. I lost our home that same week and struggled to raise funds for a respectful cremation as my sister, who hadn't talked nor seen our mother in over 16yrs, refused to allow us a viewing as when we found her she'd already passed 2-3 days prior and I didn't want that to be last image my daughter and I have of her. Not to mention my sister lives in Iowa and I've been only one in my mom's life for nearly past 2 decades.
Anyways, 2 weeks ago I found out, by continous and unrelentless attacks and abuse from my sister and aunt that my mom was cremeated and my sister was sent all of her ashes! Funeral home claims they tried numerous attempts to contact me but I have phone records tjat show they didn't. Now, today my aunt has been horrifically attacking me and claims she has my mother.
What legal rights do I have and steps do I take in obtaining 1/2 of her ashes before they plant her with a tree, which was Not what she wanted done with her ashes?
You would be surprised, but it is very common for people to hold onto their loved ones ashes for years to come after the passing. A lot of factors play into this of course and everyone deals with it differently, although there are several different Methods of Scattering Ashes, it is definitely your choice as to how you want your cremains handle at the time of passing. You may want to check out our post on Pre-planning a Funeral or Cremation Ceremony, which gives some helpful tips when it comes to pre-planning. Sometimes pre-planning is not an option, but if you are able to set up some guidelines for your passing it will help your loved ones make the right decision in regards to your cremains when the time comes.
So sorry to hear you are not able to pay the cremation fee. More people than you would think are in the same position, have you ever thought about setting up a small donation campaign? You might be able to collect enough money to help out with the fee and get your father's remains home.
No worries, this is not uncommon and all funeral homes deal with these types of situations at one point or another. If you have already purchased the niche with the funeral home and have a written agreement with them, they must honor your wishes at passing. I hope this helps, let me know if you have any other questions.
I wish you the best,
That sounds like a beautiful plan, have you discussed the option of pre-planning with any of your children? This is a good way to come up with a plan or guidelines for your loved ones to follow once the time does come for passing. Usually at the time of death it becomes harder to make certain decisions when people are so burdened with grief.
My grandfather died in 1976. My grandmother never claimed his ashes. My grandmother and both my parents are now deceased. It always bothered my mother that there was never a marker for her dad. My grandmother and parents are all buried at the same cemetery.
None of us grandkids can remember the name of the funeral home. The newspapers have archived their records that far back. I have called a couple of libraries to look for his obit., but no luck. He was in the military in WW II. I know the VA will provide a marker for free. When I called them, they told me they cannot provide a marker without the ashes.
He lived and in the state of Missouri.
Can you help me find his ashes?
I want to honor my Mama's wishes and have a military stone place at the foot of my grandmother's grave for my grandfather.
Thanks very much. Blessings,
We do not know the total circumstances here and are not attorneys,
but feel if it is what you say, sometimes these uncaring people
need to be put in their place.
Depending on state law, you can walk down to the local courthouse and tell them
you would like to make a Civil Suite. No lawyer necessary in our state, California,
they will just give you the paper work.
Once you fill out the paper work, take statements from all those involved and go
back to the court house and pay the file fee for a Civil Suite. Depends on the
state for cost, but it is usually a minimal charge to file a Civil Suite with the
Again, depending on the state, once that process is done you should easily get
granted a suit. You will be notified and he will be served a subpoena.
In California a private citizen, maybe even you, can walk up and hand him the
subpoena yourself and tell him, “you have been served”. He would then have to
comply to the subpoena, or suffer a warrant that could leave him with a fine, put
him in jail, or both.
Most likely at this point he would be hightailing it to the crematorium to pick
up the ashes. I would also make sure it's known you do want your friends ashes back
and if needed you can request for him to pay back the filing fees as well.
If he does comply and you are happy I would go back to the court house and tell them
you want to drop the charges. Hopefully in the end, everyone is happy, and you all can
have some closure knowing your friend has made it out of the funeral home.
Whoever was coordinating the service with the church should be able to pick the cremains up. I would suggest calling the church to see if they are willing to release them to another family member, depending on the situation and the church, they may or may not need documentation.
I would suggest to keep trying to get a hold of the younger man you had called and emailed in regards to having the urns interred. Do you know if the older gentleman, who gave you the younger mans info, has recently been in contact with him? What type of urns are the ashes inside of now, are they vase style urns?