What Happens To Uncollected Ashes

What Happens To Uncollected Ashes

cremation urn displayA 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.

Modern Approaches

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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Anonymous
Tue, 04/09/2019 - 17:07

In feb 2016 a mentally handicap man i foster cared for 5 years passed. The funeral home said i was not able to claim his remains because i was not next of kin. he had been a ward of the state his whole life. I have reached out the funeral home and they said it had to be 5 years before i could claim his remains. They had said something about i could only have them burried. is there anything else i can do since he was a ward of the state?

Anonymous
Tue, 04/09/2019 - 12:31

My husbands grandmother passed away in a nursing home and prearranged for a cremation with a funeral home through the nursing home she was residing at.

After her passing, the funeral home did not notify anyone in the family the cremation was complete and how the family was to obtain the remains.

We have contacted the funeral home several times and they can not seem to give us a straight answer as to where the remains are at this time.

My question is, how long is a funeral home required by Texas Law to keep remains and how are they suppose to notify the family? Certified letter? Phone Call?

Anonymous
Sat, 12/09/2017 - 17:53

I don't want to burden my family with the task of disposing of my ashes. We still have 3 urns full of immediate family whose disposal keeps getting postponed and it's been 8 years. I am going to recommend to the funeral director to dispose of them and hope for the best. After all, I'll be long gone on a new adventure and don't have any problem with this decision.

Name
Rick Fraser
Tue, 07/24/2018 - 23:12

Kathleen,

I'm so glad you are willing to give her a proper burial, its so upsetting how many ashes go unclaimed yearly. To properly obtain her ashes you should first get written permission from her mother since she is the next of kin and still living. Once you have it in documentation stating you have permission to obtain her ashes I would contact the Los Angeles County Coroner where she was placed. They will be able to give you more information on where the ashes are being held. Here is an email link and a phone number for contact, unclaimed@coroner.lacounty.gov, (323) 343-0755. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to help.

Sincerely,
Susan Fraser

Name
Rick Fraser
Wed, 11/22/2017 - 00:57

Hello Chris, I'm so sorry to hear about your friends passing and things being so complicated. Its a shame he does not want to help seeing as this was his BF and you already have a plot paid for. If you are not able to locate his parents and his BF is the only option I would continue trying to get in contact with him. The next option I would suggest would be to file a civil suit, very easy in our state of California, you can just walk down to he courthouse and fill out the paperwork. He can then be served by mail, seeing as he is in another state, or depending on the state you can usually have a sheriff within his state serve him the papers directly. After he is served he should, at that point, be in contact with you and willing to cooperate. If all goes well and you get what you need you can then drop the charges and hopefully in the end everyone is happy, I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Susan Fraser

Name
Rick Fraser
Mon, 04/15/2019 - 22:41

Hello Devon,

Certain laws in regards to cremation will differ from state to state, what state are you located in?

Name
Rick Fraser
Tue, 05/22/2018 - 22:06

Hello Candice,
I'm sorry your aunt and sister are not making this any easier on you. This is actually more common than you might think, people tend to respond differently during the grieving process and everyone deals with grief in their own way. What state do you live in? Each state has its own set of laws regarding who has the rights to a loved ones cremains. Unless your mother by chance had a will stating who has the rights to her cremains once she passes, the will would then be honored first, by law.

Anonymous
Thu, 08/16/2018 - 03:12

Many thanks for the help that you provide to so many of us.
I am another one of the few that lost interest in the ashes of my beloved mother.
She was "murdered" by my 3 siblings the moment THEY decided to place her in an hospice and chose the paliative slow death for her using the cocktail of morphine and ativan.
They, being my older sister 99% the leader of the pack, were ignorants and also did not want to be involved in her care.
I, being her caregiver for almost 2 years, loved my mother and she was and always will be my heroe in spite of her disappointment towards me for my unsuccessful life.
The funeral guy gave me the go around during all my visits to him and he just wanted the money first after he made me sign his papers for 885 dollars. I told him he would get the money the moment he gave the 100% (5 lbs ?) of the ashes.
it looks like he thought he would get money also from the leader of the pack!?
8 days after my mothers death he started calling ME now but, I not longer interested.
I will make my own ashes with her pictures and belongings, after all, how do I know if those are my mother ashes?
I had told him I wanted to see my mother first. I wanted to be present for the cremation allowed by law but he gave me the go around with lies.
Today he keeps calling...
I will never trust him. It is over.
I keep my mother in my heart and mind. This is the way it should always be!

Anonymous
Wed, 10/05/2016 - 00:17

THERE ARE THOSE WHO OUT LIVE OTHER OR ALL FAMILY MEMBERS OR THEY SEE NO VALUE IN THESE RITUALS.

Anonymous
Thu, 12/13/2018 - 18:35

Hi, my in-laws were cremated back in 1984 as far as we know. When brother-in-laws did will, they gave my husband (brother) the deeds to the plots where parents were to be buried. They were not buried. We were told that they were buried in a poor mans cemetary or something like that. How can we find out where they are? We are in upstate New York area. Trying to change deeds to plots to my husbands name.

Name
Rick Fraser
Tue, 01/08/2019 - 23:40

Hello Deb,

There is no set time frame if you decide you would like to have your moms cremains placed in a proper burial. You mentioned your parents already have 4 burial plots, are one of those plots reserved for your mom?

Sincerely,
Susan Fraser

Anonymous
Sun, 09/02/2018 - 06:20

I want my ashes dumped down the toilet. I mean, I'll be dead, who cares?

Name
Rick Fraser
Sat, 04/13/2019 - 00:22

Hello Julie,

All funeral homes are different when it comes to the way they do business in regards to reaching out to a family after the cremation is done, but usually a phone call would be standard then possibly a follow up email or letter depending on the contact information provided. Most state laws require a funeral home to hold onto the cremains for a minimum of 4 years. How long ago was she cremated? Have you tried getting any info from the nursing home who helped set up the cremation?

Sincerely,
Susan Fraser

Name
Rick Fraser
Mon, 09/25/2017 - 23:56

Hello Doninya,

Contact the funeral home where your mother was said to be. In California a funeral director or cemetery has complete authority over the final disposition of cremains when:
1.) They have knowledge that none of the listed persons exist OR none of the listed people can be found after reasonable inquiry or contacted by reasonable means.
2.) The public administrator fails to assume responsibility for the final disposition within 7 days after being given notice

Sincerely,
Susan Fraser

Anonymous
Sun, 04/22/2018 - 03:46

I'm working on a fictional manuscript. A boy is burned in a house fire. The mother is a single parent and has no relatives. She and her son were living with another man who set the fire to get rid of both of them. She got out but the boy didn't. She escaped from the hospital fleeing for her life because the man will kill her if he finds her. She changes her name and appearance. Two years later the man is killed. She wants to find out what happened to her son's remains. This is in Mississippi. Would the bones from the fire be retained by the police who invested the house fire or a local funeral home? Thanks for your help.

Anonymous
Sat, 02/17/2018 - 18:14

Susan my sister passed in 2011 at the time of the funeral my niece her only daughter refused the remains and I her only next of kin was given them by the funeral director,. Now 7 yrs later my niece wants them what rights do I have to continue to keep my sisters cremations in the state of Pennsylvania? Please help

Name
Rick Fraser
Sat, 02/17/2018 - 20:53

Hello, Colleen So sorry that you have to go through all this so many years after the passing of your sister. We are not lawyers so we can just call this an option and we are not advocating any company or giving legal advice. But you may find some insight regarding the right to disposition of a decedent's remains here. goo.gl/9b6Y5L

Emotions can become powerful during a time of the death of a loved one which leaves some that can barely think. I speak from experience. But after so much time all of sudden the desires, whim, or caprice of your niece comes welling up is not really fair to her Mothers Sister.

Couple things to note is that your niece refused the remains at the time of the funeral and you were given the cremated remains by the funeral director. Did you sign anything? If you did and you have the paperwork then you may want to point that out to your niece. Your Funeral Direct might have some records. You also might want to look up the statue of Pennsylvania Civil Statutes of Limitations. goo.gl/x2KMzE

Lastly, if you want, you could ask her to go buy a Cremation Urn that is about a hundred cubic inches in size and you could split ashes with her and ask a Funeral Director (maybe the same one) to transfer about half of the cremated ashes into the urn.

Hope this helps if not let me know.

Anonymous
Sun, 04/29/2018 - 18:25

I would like to have a final resting place with one of my children. I will not force them to as any resting place would be fine with me.

Name
Rick Fraser
Thu, 06/07/2018 - 19:30

Hello Bernard, I'm so sorry things have not been easy with obtaining your brothers ashes. I see you are located in the UK, and the laws are different internationally when it comes the legalities dealing with cremation. I would suggest at this point to get in contact with an attorney to see what your rights are and they should be able to help get this sorted out for you. You can also see if the funeral home will give you any information on what steps you would need to take to legally obtain your brothers ashes. Hope this helps, I wish you the best.

Sincerely,
Susan Fraser

Name
Rick Fraser
Mon, 04/09/2018 - 23:06

Hello Shirley, i'm so sorry your niece isn't helping make this any easier. If your niece has already collected the ashes from the funeral home, there is no reason for the funeral home to hold onto any of the ashes, so unfortunately it would be unlikely that they would have any there. Do you know if the deceased had any type of written will describing who was entitled to the ashes?

Name
Rick Fraser
Tue, 01/08/2019 - 00:37

Hello Keisha,

I'm really sorry to hear about your unfortunate situation, I understand your concern though, your family should be honest with you. The actual cremation itself usually only takes a couple hours, total turn around time usually can happen within a day depending on the funeral home. Some funeral homes can take up to a week or 2. People tend to handle grief in various ways, it's possible the rest of the family is still trying to cope with her passing as well and maybe they are not ready to talk. Regardless, you are still left not knowing, which isn't fair to you. Is there anyway you can get in contact with whoever was in charge of hospice for her? Another option would be to look into a private investigator, or if you truly think there was foul play involved with her death I would then take it up with the local authorities where she was living.

Sincerely,
Susan Fraser

Anonymous
Thu, 03/28/2019 - 22:43

The ashes of 2 family members have been left at the church where their services were. We are waiting for the ground to thaw. On reflecting, I thought it better if they were in the home of my son, until burial. Who can pick the ashes up from the church? Do they need any documents. The family is well known to the church. Ontario Canada

Thu, 06/07/2018 - 21:08

My oldest son passed away almost ten years ago, and at the time, his mom and I had him cremated, and she has kept his remains in her home. I find myself wondering if the funeral home really burned the coffin, a $5000 deal. I would bet even money that the coffin was retrieved and resold, and that this may be a common occurrence. Is that legal? They really try to sock it to grieving loved ones as they know their state of mind. Do you think my question is morbid?

Name
Rick Fraser
Wed, 12/19/2018 - 00:49

Hello Nancy,

It's possible the funeral home that performed the cremation back in 1984 is still holding onto the cremains. They should have the cremation on record and can give more info on what happened to the cremains.

Sincerely,
Susan Fraser

Anonymous
Sun, 03/31/2019 - 10:34

Hi, I am in possession of two urns. One containing the remains of my aunt (my father's sister), and the other of my uncle (my father's brother). Neither had a spouse when they passed away. Neither ever had children. My father, their brother kept their urns. Their parents both deceased are buried at a Jewish cemetery in Queens, NY. My aunt was extremely close to her father, and my uncle was extremely close to his mother. When my father passed away, his second wife, gave me the urns of my aunt and uncle. I'm unmarried, without children and getting up in years. My siblings have no interest in taking the urns. I would like to take the urns to the cemetery in Queens. I would like to have my uncle's urn interred with his mother, and my aunt's urn interred with her father. I called the cemetery who referred me to an elderly member of a synagogue through whom the original plots were purchased. That man then referred me to a younger man who has taken his place. I left voice mail and email for that individual, but have not received a response. I plan to travel to visit relatives next month who live a couple of hours from the cemetery. I've checked with the airline and found the only requirement, is to use a non-metallic urn before planning in my carry on. This means I would be leaving behind the original inscribed urns. I have no idea how to open the original urns in order to transfer the contents to the non-metallic urns. I also don't know who will it can decide if all this is possible.
Can you please offer any suggestions, insight, etc. Thank you.

Anonymous
Tue, 11/21/2017 - 09:10

Hello:

My close friend died on 2-20-17 at age 33, cancer. I have 1/3 of his ashes. I am just a loyal friend of 12 yrs. His bf has some and my decease friend parents have a bit. My question.... I have brought a niche @Forest Lawn Glendale, California for him. Paid off. I want to put him in it but they say I need promission from the next of ken. Well I am having problems finding his parents who live back east. His BF is now in Texas and I cant get a hold of him ( HE HAS POWER OF ATTORNY). But since I can't get ahold hold of him what is the next step so I can put my friend ashes to rest? Do I need to go to court and see a judge? Please help me, this is hurting me so bad. Thank you. Bless you.

Anonymous
Wed, 06/06/2018 - 17:03

My brother kept away last October and my mum could not be bothered to come and sort out his funeral, she would not let me know what was going on and now here we are in June and still she could not be able to get his Ashes from the funeral home I,ve lost count as to how many times I,ve rang them and they keep saying that they can not tell me anything as it comes under the data protection act,
She will not come and get them all I want to do is collect them and put him to rest.
Now at a loss as to what I can do now.

Anonymous
Sun, 07/15/2018 - 04:11

Hello Susan. my mom passed away after a sudden and Brief Illness May 24 2016 at age 81. she had pre-arranged her cremation in 2010 and left me in charge. afterwards I kept the cremains for 3 months but felt uneasy about it. so I purchased a Niche in the Cemetery near her home. since mom had suffered a stroke in 1997 she was unable to speak and it was just me and her. for nearly 19 years her two other children and grandchildren showed no concern. my family is VERY estranged and dysfunctional. in 2017 I prepaid and pre-arranged my own cremation and was told by the cemetery since I purchased the niche, I too could be placed in it next to mom. having no family I left the funeral home as executor and written and specific instructions to not bother looking for any family to contact and for them to take me to the cemetery and place me with mom. in fact My name and birth date are on the niche along with Mom's. is it legal that they do this? I have severed all contact with relatives. I don't want any of them handling my cremains. only one niece would try. but I removed her name from contacts and her number is unknown. they say since I left instructions she CAN NOT. it's not a will but my final wishes. any chance she could over ride this? I just wanna rest beside my mother. I am 53. when my time comes. hopefully the distance of time will make my niece leave me alone even in death

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