Scattering Ashes After Cremation: Your Rights In Illinois

22 September 2014
 Categories: Business, Articles

Many families choose to cremate the remains of their loved one for financial or spiritual reasons, or because this was the express wish of the deceased person. A lot of people also decide that they want their surviving family members to scatter their ashes somewhere meaningful, and have decorative urn, like one from, for a memorial. but it's important to understand that state laws can restrict where you choose to leave your loved one's remains. If you plan to scatter the ashes of a friend or family member, learn what Illinois law says about where you can and can't carry out this special task.

What the law says you can do

Illinois law permits families to store the cremated ashes of their loved ones in a grave or crypt. You may also scatter ashes in a legally established scattering area, including a scattering garden or cemetery. The Crematory Regulation Act (410 ILCS 18) also says that you may scatter remains "in any manner whatever on the private property of a consenting owner." As such, families may often need to make special arrangements to meet the wishes of their loved ones.

Crematory authority responsibilities

If you do not collect or issue instructions for the remains of your loved one, the crematory authority will normally deliver them to you. Alternatively, after sixty days, the law permits the authority to dispose of the ashes in line with the regulations. The authority must keep a written record of how they disposed of the ashes, but it's important to make arrangements within this time.

Dealing with multiple remains

Under Illinois law, you cannot ask the crematory authority to place the remains of more than one person in one container. Furthermore, you cannot dispose of cremated remains in a way that allows the ashes of two people to mix together. This rule doesn't apply when you dispose of the ashes at sea or in a cemetery, as it is obviously impossible to guarantee that this will not happen.

Choosing a place to scatter ashes on land

While a loved one may have specifically stated the place where you should dispose of his or her ashes, state law may restrict you.

Some common places to scatter ashes include:

  • Private land. You can scatter ashes anywhere on your own private land. Where you do not own the land, you should get permission from the owner.
  • Public land. City and county regulations may prevent you scattering ashes on public land, particularly in parks. It is advisable to check with local authorities.
  • Federal land. According to the law, you should ask permission before scattering ashes on federal land.

If you apply for permission to scatter ashes on public or federal land, you will often need to complete designated paperwork. You will also probably have to file your application some time in advance, so consider this carefully if you need to work to a given date (such as a birthday or anniversary.)

Scattering ashes at sea

Illinois has no ocean coastline, so if you plan to scatter ashes at sea, you will need to travel out-of-state. The federal general permit for burial at sea requires that you dispose of the remains at least three nautical miles away from land. You must also not dispose of materials that won't decompose, including plastic wreaths and urns. Following disposal, you must also send a completed 'Region 6 burial at sea form' to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Following a cremation, many families go to great lengths to scatter ashes in a special place. Illinois state law sets out some rules about this activity, but with common sense and consideration, you are unlikely to fall foul of any regulations.